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Ten Must Have Primary Books That Teach Tolerance, Acceptance and Empathy

As a teacher, I feel it is my duty to teach students tolerance, acceptance and empathy.  We want every single student to feel accepted and know that they belong.
I love picture books.  I especially love picture books that inspire, provoke, and promote amazing classroom discussions. Let's look at ten picture books that I use to teach students about important character traits.  

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Those Shoes
by Maribeth Boelts
Jeremy wants the latest pair of sneakers that everyone has but Grandma can't afford them.  He wants these shoes so bad that he even dreams about them.  When he finally finds the shoes at a second hand store, you won't believe what he does with them!
This relatable book is one that I read every year and the thought provoking discussions we have are the best!
I am Enough
by Grace Byers
I know that we do not look the same.   Our skin, our eyes, our hair, our frame.
But that does not dictate our worth.
We both have places here on Earth.

This beautifully written book is a must have for any classroom.  
Get it here.

William's Doll
by Charlotte Zolotow

William wants a doll to love but his dad doesn't want him to get one.  In the end, Grandma gets William a doll.  This leads to a great discussion about gender stereotypes and how there is no such thing as "girls toys and "boys toys" .

by Matt de la Pena

CJ and his grandma are on a bus when the CJ asks questions about why they don’t have certain luxuries and why he has to go with her every Sunday. Grandma has a ready answer for his questions and encourages him to think of positive aspects of lacking material goods. When they reach their destination, it's a soup kitchen.  CJ is glad he went. This is one of my all-time favorite books.

Strictly No Elephants
by Lisa Mantchev

The story begins with, "The trouble with having a tiny elephant for a pet is that you never quite fit in,” by a little boy with a tiny pet elephant. The Pet Club has an angry sign—“Strictly No Elephants”. The little boy decides to make his own Pet Club and says, "All are Welcome".  This book has a beautiful message about acceptance and tolerance.  

The Invisible Boy
by Trudy Ludwig

ten picture books that teach tolerance, acceptance and empathy

 Brian feels as if he is an invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him at lunch, games, or birthday party, including the teacher.  Then, a new boy, Justin,  comes to class.  Students can relate to this book because everyone has felt as if they do not belong.  This book is a great discussion starter for acceptance, tolerance and empathy.  Children can easily empathize with Brian and Justin.  I adore this book!

by Tomie de Paola

Oliver wants to be a dancer but everyone makes fun of him.  They think tap dancing is for girls.  Oliver's dad even tries to get him to play ball. This is another great book teaching acceptance and will allow for discussion of gender stereotypes.  I highly recommend this book!
The Day You Begin
by Jacqueline Woodson
This story begins, "There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you".
This book is all about being brave when you feel like an outsider and how it can be a beautiful thing.   This is a book that students can relate to and celebrates diversity. Every primary classroom should have this book!
Be Kind
by Pat Zietlow Miller

Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress at school and everyone laughs at her.  One classmate wants to make her feel better, wondering: What does it mean to be kind? This book explores what kindness is, and how even a small act of kindness can make a difference.

by Maribeth Boelts

Ruben wants a bike so bad.  Everyone has a bike except him.  Then, he finds some money and wants to get himself a bike.  He almost does.
This book is about doing the right thing, appreciating what you have and empathy.

I hope you enjoyed my list and found some new books to read to your students that teach tolerance, acceptance and empathy.  Together we can make the world a better place one picture book at a time!

primary picture books

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