10 Kids Books that Encourage Acceptance
Recently, my son has been asking to read I Like Myself by Karen Beamont. The pictures are bright and colorful and I love the author's message on the back cover: "Wishing every child the magic of self-acceptance and love." I'm grateful for books like these that help young readers understand how to accept and celebrate the things that make us different.
With such heartbreaking events in the news lately, I’ve been thinking about how to teach empathy and compassion to young children. There’s so much to convey, it can seem daunting – how to help others, how to view things from a different point of view, how to see and accept people as they are – not easy subjects! (Especially on days when much simpler concepts – like backing away from the TV screen – seem out of reach.)
Obviously there’s so much that goes into raising a compassionate child, but one of my favorite approaches is to read books that help foster acceptance and understanding. Here are nine more of my favorites…
Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. Julián is a little boy who daydreams about dressing up like a glittery mermaid. The illustrations are absolutely stunning, and I love that Julian’s grandmother accepts him exactly as he is.
The Bad Seed by Jory John. He’s late to everything, he cuts in line, he never listens – he’s a baaaaaaaaaaaad seed. But sometimes he says please and thank you, sometimes he smiles, and sometimes he even holds the door open for other people. This book is a great reminder that doing something bad once in a while doesn’t make you a bad person.
Plus, just seeing that naughty little seed on the cover always makes me smile.
We're All Wonders by R.J. Palacio. As a young boy with a facial deformity, Auggie is often seen differently, especially at school. Kindness, tolerance, empathy, and self-acceptance are all part of Auggie’s journey to finding his place in the world. “I know I can’t change the way I look, but maybe, just maybe, people can change the way they see.” I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. At the Central Park Zoo, two penguins named Roy and Silo long for a baby penguin of their own. Finally, with the help of a kind zookeeper, Tango is born – the first penguin in the zoo to have two daddies. This true story (!) beautifully illustrates that nontraditional families are formed with the same love as any other.
Skin Again by Bell Hooks. “The skin I’m in is just a covering. It cannot tell my story. If you want to know who I am, you have got to come inside and open your heart way wide.” We all need to look beyond skin to find what matters most – who we are on the inside. This is one of my favorite books for talking about race and identity with children.
Pink Is for Boys by Robb Pearlman. “Pink is for boys…and girls…and everyone!” I love how the author reworks the conventional pink/blue gender binary to encourage kids to embrace every color of the rainbow.
Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle. When a big important dump truck gets stuck in the mud, Little Blue Truck and his barnyard friends teach him a lesson about the power of friendship. Bonus: lots of fun animal noises!
Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel. These classic tales of friendship feature Frog and Toad, a delightful odd-couple I remember from my own childhood. Throughout their adventures – swimming, telling stories, writing letters – Frog and Toad are always there for each other, just as friends should be.
All these years later, it’s still one of the best illustrations of friendship I’ve seen.
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers. “Every day, everywhere, babies are born – fat babies, thin babies, small babies, tall babies, winter and spring babies, summer and fall babies.” I love that this book features characters of all different races and ethnicities, uniting us all in the love we have for our children.
I read a question online recently that really stuck with me: Is it more important to you that your child be smart or kind? For me, that’s an easy answer.
About the Author
Cortney is a professional writer and editor with a background in book publishing. She loves yoga, reading, chasing after her toddler son, and the sound of her husband’s laugh.