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5 children’s books that celebrate diversity and inclusion

Books to open the conversation with your kids about empathy and kindness

HOUSTON – Books offer a way for children to see themselves or see experiences different from their own; that’s why they’re a great tool to teach our young ones about inclusion, empathy and race.

Valerie Koehler, owner of Blue Willow Bookshop in West Houston, shared her picks for best books to educate your kids about diversity and kindness, starting at age 3.

“This is a time when I think we need to talk about these important books, and hopefully this summer you will take an opportunity to stop by the store and learn more about these books and other books that you can share with children and open up the conversation with your family in your classroom,” said Koehler, who explained what each book is all about and why she thinks they’re worth reading.

1. Strictly No Elephants

by Lisa Mantchev (Simon & Schuster Books)

Strictly No Elephants
Strictly No Elephants (Simon & Schuster Books)

Today is Pet Club day and the young boy who has a pet elephant understands how difficult it is to be the owner of an unusual pet. When he arrives at the clubhouse, there is a sign stating, “Strictly No Elephants”. Our young friend decides that he will start a new club that welcomes all people and all pets.

“It’s a wonderful story to talk about empathy, kindness and inclusiveness,” said Koehler.

Get it: here

2. The Day You Begin

by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers)

Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers
Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers (Blue Willow Bookshop)

It can be difficult to start school where you are unsure about whether or not you will be welcome. You may have different color skin, different kind of hair, or have different kinds of food in your lunch box. Quietly but surely all the classmates come to realize that while they may look different, they are also all the same.

“It’s great first-day-of-school book but also a way to discuss that we have differences, but we also have things in common,” said Koehler.

Get it: here

3. All Are Welcome

by Alexandra Penfold (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

All are welcome ( Knopf Books for Young Readers)
All are welcome ( Knopf Books for Young Readers) (Blue Willow Bookshop)

Join all the students at school where all are welcome. Warm illustrations help even the youngest of readers identify that they come from all over the world, they look different, they dress differently, but that school can be a force for good with welcome arms for all.

“It’s cheerful, it’s bright, it’s a great way to welcome kids to the school year in a way that you can see that the children have something in common,” said Koehler.

Get it: here

4. Sulwe

by Lupita Nyong’o (Simon & Schuster Books)

Sulwe (Simon & Schuster Books)
Sulwe (Simon & Schuster Books) (Blue Willow Bookshop)

Sulwe has very dark skin, darker than anyone in her family. This is hard for Sulwe to understand but her parents teach her that she is beautiful. Everyone is beautiful in their own way. Sulwe and the reader can learn how to accept the differences in all people.

“I think this is a great introduction to talk about color and to talk about race, that everyone is beautiful in their own way,” said Koehler.

Get it: here

5. The Undefeated

by Kwame Alexander (Versify Books, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

(Versify Books, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
(Versify Books, a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) (Blue Willow Bookshop)

A powerful ode to the endurance of African Americans throughout our country’s history. The magnificent illustrations highlight the text which introduces many famous (and maybe a few not famous yet) people of color.

“This book opens up the conversation about some people that we might not know that did some really powerful things in their day. Movers and shakers. We have musicians, we have artists, politicians, we have people of all kinds and all walks of life here, and it’s a loving, moving tribute to all of them,” said Koehler.

Get it: here

To see Koehler’s complete interview, watch the video above.


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