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Inclusion Column

Celebrating Inclusion Themes in Children's Literature

Books are a vehicle for learning about others and the world around us. Gaining exposure to different topics can lead to understanding, as well as build empathy. At times, it might be difficult to figure out how to most effectively start up a conversation with your child about a topic such as inclusion. Children’s picture books offer a way to do just that. The Elementary Library has a large collection of books that support inclusion themes, which we have organized into three main categories: We All Learn Differently, We All Belong, and We’re All Unique. 

Books with “We All Learn Differently” themes address learning differences among individuals. Certain subjects at school feel harder or easier than others, students can learn in different ways, and there are challenges and frustrations that come with learning. You as a parent can determine how deep you want to dive into a particular theme or topic depending on the book that you choose. Leo the Late Bloomer and Giraffes Can’t Dance have animals as the main characters and take a general look at these themes, while other titles such as Mi Hermano tiene Austimo, and You’re All Kinds of Wonderful focus on a specific diagnosed learning difference, syndrome, or emotional issue. 

Books that support the “We All Belong” theme will help generate discussion around the ideas that there is a perfect friend for everybody, that we all fit somewhere, and that no matter how different you are, you belong in your family and community. All Are Welcome, The Big Umbrella, and  We All Sing in the Same Voice are stories with general themes of belonging.  I’m New Here focuses specifically on what it feels like for immigrant and refugee children to join a new school in a foreign country.  Building empathy and developing social awareness are real benefits that emerge from sharing stories with inclusion themes.

Books with “We’re All Unique” themes focus on how people look different, like different things, believe different things, and face diverse challenges in their lives. These differences are what make us interesting and unique. Same Same but Different compares and contrasts some elements of family and school life for two boys who live on opposite sides of the world, while The Skin You Live In specifically addresses different skin tones.  You can decide how you wish to approach the topic and whether a surface level or deep conversation is necessary in your situation and with your child.

Sharing an interactive reading experience allows you to dialogue with your child, giving them the opportunity to ask and get answers to questions about unfamiliar topics or sensitive issues in a safe environment.  These experiences help to build and nurture relationships of trust between adult and child, and enable kids to be active participants in their learning and socio-emotional development. If you ask open-ended, deeper level thinking questions as you read, this makes the experience more interactive and reflective, thus increasing the level of engagement with the text.

Please feel welcome to visit the Elementary Library to select books, so that you can begin socializing  inclusion themes with your children at home. All of the titles mentioned in this article can be found on our Red Inclusion Shelf.

Written by Fiona Morales, Elementary Head Librarian