Read With Me: 10 Children’s books on diversity and inclusivity

In spite of the sheer diversity of our country, disparity and differences, especially in urban areas, are leading to growing intolerance and prejudice. With the RTE act enforced it is even more imperative for kids to be sensitized to the issues of diversity and inclusivity.


In spite of the sheer diversity of our country, disparity and differences, especially in urban areas, are leading to growing intolerance and prejudice. In schools this translates into bullying and teasing causing the victimized child to dropout in extreme cases. Now, with the RTE act enforced it is even more imperative for kids to be sensitized to the issues of diversity and inclusivity.

When ‘different’ is often seen as wrong, characters in books can serve as role models and are a wonderful way to inculcate emotional intelligence in our children. The school or parent can introduce the books and have discussions on them that will help create a more conducive environment for students of different backgrounds to fit in easily.

Here is a list of books that deal with diversity and inclusivity:

The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss (Age: 5 – 9 years)

This collection of 4 short stories, in typical Dr. Seuss style , touches upon moral issues. In particular: tolerance, need for compromise and fear of the unknown.

 

Just Like You by Robert Kroupa (Age: 3 – 7 years)

A story for little children about 2 friends, Boris and Henry in Piney forest, who are shunned and bullied by the other animals because they are different. But when danger threatens the forest in the form of fire, it is these 2 friends who help the other animals making them realise that they are just like everyone else.

Stinky the Bulldog by Jacalyn Valent (Age : 4 – 8 years)

Stinky the Bulldog moves into a new neighbourhood and is eager to make new friends. But he soon encounters some who don’t want to be his friend and he wonders why. Stinky learns an important lesson from his mom about friendship and about not judging someone on the outside.

Wendy on Wheels by Angela Ruzicka (Age: 6 – 10)

A series of books about 10 year old Wendy who’s always enthusiastic in spite of being confined to a wheelchair. In ‘Wendy on Wheel takes a stand’, she stands up for a classmate being bullied and ends up being bullied herself. She then learns to create proactive solutions instead of reacting impulsively.

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

When Grace’s teacher announces a classroom production of Peter Pan, she wants to play the lead. But she is mocked by her classmates because she’s a girl and she’s black. Disheartened, Grace narrates the events to her family and they tell her she can be whatever she wants to, if she is determined. Inspired by her family’s support, Grace prepares for the audition with earnest dedication.

A Bus of our Own by Freddi Williams Evans (Age: 6 – 10 yrs)

This story is based on true events from the period of segregation. African-American Mable Jean has to walk five miles to school, and bear the teasing of the white children who ride on the bus. When she asks her father and teacher why there is no bus for her school, the community decides to come together to acquire a school bus for the black children.

My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth (Age: 7 – 10 years)

It portrays the life of an autistic child through the eyes of a sibling and teaches about accepting ‘different’ children.

 

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes (Age: 7 – 10 years)

The book is about a poor American -Polish girl, Wanda Petronski, whose classmates mock her about her ‘different’ last name and the faded blue dress that she wears to school every day. To counter this, Wanda claims to have one hundred dresses, but this leads to the girls demanding that she describe all her dresses to prove they exist. One day, the teacher holds a drawing contest and Wanda submits one hundred designs for dresses. She wins the contest, but now has moved away because of the bullying. The girls realising her talent, feel remorse and write her a letter.

Shooting Kabul by N H Senzai (Age: 8 + years)

Eleven year protagonist Fadi and his family, while escaping from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in 2001, are separated from his little sister in a Pakistan refugee camp. Fadi’s family ends up in Northern California, where he finds it’s difficult to fit in as he struggles to learn the language, culture and customs of America. Then Sept. 11 happens and assimilating with the other kids becomes even more difficult for Fadi.

The Other Side of Truth by Beverly Naidoo (Age: 10 + years)

This children’s novel is the story of 12-year-old Nigerian girl Sade Solaja, who, along with her younger brother, are forced to leave the country after the assassination of their mother by the military, a result of their journalist father’s outspoken critiques. Smuggled into London, they are abandoned there and they wander the streets until they are found by authorities and taken into foster homes. Brother and sister are sent to separate schools where they have to deal with bullying and being forced into stealing. One day, Sade decides to be brave and share her story with a television announcer to bring attention to her family’s plight.

These books highlight the fact that while some children may be different, either by appearance or ethnicity or culture, these differences need not come in the way of forming friendships or achieving one’s dreams.

 

This is part of the August Read With Me special series on children reading for a better tomorrow. 

As parents, educators, readers and writers, we know how important it is to get children – from infants to young adults – to be readers, and readers for life. Read With Me all this month looks to encourage children to read more. We are also talking about reading that goes much beyond a good tale – as vibrant, fun and effective ways to get children to connect to themselves, their roots, accept difference, understand people and places and be more sensitive. All of August, The Alternative says Read With Me – read more and read for change.


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