Books for helping children build empathy, inclusion, and acceptance.

We have a special guest blogger today. Dillon Rowley is a student at Utah Valley University studying special education. We’ve been happy to have Dillon volunteering with us this month, and he’s given us a great list of books from his area of expertise. Thanks, Dillon!

 We live in a diverse world filled with incredible people who are, more often than not, very different from us. We all have our own strengths and struggles, and it’s important that we develop a sense of empathy towards others. It’s even more important to start at a young age. Schools are the perfect place to develop an understanding of others and the ability to share in their feelings. The classroom is full of diversity: students with special needs, students of color, students of various backgrounds, or just students in need of a friend. These wonderfully illustrated picture books are full of stories of children who may be considered ‘different’ but who are truly worthwhile. Through reading these books, your children will be able to take a walk in someone else’s shoes and will build a sense of empathy, inclusion, and acceptance for peers with differences.


Junkyard Wonders
by Patricia Polacco is a story about Trisha, a young girl with special needs. When she finds out her class at a new school is known as “The Junkyard,” she is devastated. She moved from her old town so she wouldn’t be in a special class anymore! But then she meets her teacher, the quirky and invincible Mrs. Peterson, and her classmates, an oddly brilliant group of students each with his or her own unique talent. And it is here in The Junkyard that Trisha learns the true meaning of genius, and that this group of misfits are, in fact, wonders, all of them. Based on a real-life event in Patricia Polacco’s childhood, this ode to teachers will inspire all readers to find their inner genius.

content-chilifreshA Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon is about a girl named Camilla Cream who  loves lima beans, but she never eats them. Why? Because the other kids in her school don’t like them. And Camilla Cream is very, very worried about what other people think of her. In fact, she’s so worried that she’s about to break out in…a bad case of stripes!

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopmann takes a playful look at Asperger Syndrome (AS), drawing inspiration from the feline world in a way that will strike a chord with all those who are familiar with AS. Delightful colour photographs of cats bring to life familiar characteristics such as sensitive hearing, scampering at the first sign of being stroked, and particular eating habits. Touching, humorous and insightful, this book evokes the difficulties and joys of raising a child who is different and leaves the reader with a sense of the dignity, individuality, and potential of people with AS. This engaging book is an ideal, gentle introduction to the world of AS.

content-chilifreshAll Dogs Have ADHD, also by Kathy Hoopmann, takes an inspiring and affectionate look at Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), using images and ideas from the canine world to explore a variety of traits that will be instantly recognisable to those who are familiar with ADHD. Following the style of the award-winning All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome, charming colour photographs of dogs bring to life familiar ADHD characteristics such as being restless and excitable, getting easily distracted, and acting on impulse. This delightful book combines humour with understanding to reflect the difficulties and joys of raising a child with ADHD and celebrates what it means to be considered `different’. This absorbing and enjoyable book takes a refreshing approach to understanding ADHD.

Thank You, Mr. Falker, another one by Patricia Polacco, is based on based on a real-life event from Pollacco’s childhood. It’s the story of Trisha, who could paint and draw beautifully, but when she looked at words on a page, all she could see was jumble. It took a very special teacher to recognize little Trisha’s dyslexia: Mr. Falker, who encouraged her to overcome her reading disability.

content.chilifresh.jpgThe Invisible Boy written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton. In this story you’ll meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their groups, games, or birthday parties until a new kid comes to class. When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine. This gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish. This is a great book that sensitively addresses the needs of quieter children and helps others understand with discussion questions and resources for further reading.

Janine by Maryann Cocca-Laffler. In this book Maryann uses her own daughter as inspiration for a delightfully spunky character. Janine Leffler focuses on the positive while navigating life with disabilities. She has become a role model to children and adults, encouraging them to focus on abilities and promoting respect, tolerance, and kindness.

Can I Play Too? (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems follows the best friends Gerald and Piggie as they play a game of catch and end up meeting a new snake friend who wants to join in their game. But don’t you need arms to catch? They struggle, but eventually succeed in learning how to play catch with their new armless friend. This is a great example about how we can be acknowledging of others disabilities and differences while still including them in our activities.

My Friend Isabelle by Eliza Woloson and illustrated by Bryan Gaugh. Isabelle and Charlie are friends. They both like to draw, dance, read, and play at the park. They both like to eat Cheerios. They both cry if their feelings are hurt. And like most friends, they are also different from each other. Isabelle has Down syndrome. Charlie doesn’t. Written by Isabelle’s mother, this charming tale encourages readers to think about what makes a friendship special. The book also opens the door for young children to talk about differences and the world around them.
content-chilifreshJust Because by Rebecca Elliot. A boy describes all the things that his sister, who is strapped into a wheelchair, enjoys or does not enjoy. After each item, he explains, “Just because.” He doesn’t use her disability as an excuse or a reason, he simply accepts her for who she is. Colorful illustrations show the two siblings engaging in everyday activities and pretend play

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