Teaching young children to be tolerant of others and accepting of difference in others
can be challenging. Children have been only on this earth for a short period of time and their experiences are far fewer than that of an adult. The wonderful thing about this age, though, is that they encounter new experiences every day and are easily adaptable. Often people or experiences can be scary for the simple reason that they are new. Modeling openness and kindness to all is the best lesson.
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon is a delightful tale of a baby bat who is separated from her mother by an unfortunate mishap. Luckily for Stellaluna she happens to fall into the nest of birds. She quickly must adapt to the life of a bird. Eventually, Stellaluna is reunited with her mother and wants to share her new life with her bird family only to discover birds are quite different than bats. This story illustrates tolerance, acceptance and difference lovingly.
Yoko by Rosemary Wells is the story of a Japanese girl who is so excited to bring her favorite Bento box lunch to school until the children mock her for its contents. Her teacher plans an international food day to expose the children to difference. As a result, Yoko finds a new friend. Through their differences they find they have something in common: green tea ice cream!
Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss tells the enticing tale of an elephant who, while splashing in a the “cool of a pool,” happens to hear a very faint “yelp.” Determined to help this very small creature floating past on a speck a dust. Horton states, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Very carefully he collects the speck of dust and rests it safely on a clover flower. The other animals in the jungle who cannot hear the creature’s call do not believe Horton, so he must do everything in his power to protect and prove that the creatures are there. Horton shows how difficult it can be to make others understand.
The Story of Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf is a timeless tale written in 1936. It tells the story of a bull who has no desire to do the normal bull activities. Instead, he is quite at peace sitting beneath his favorite cork tree out in the pasture quietly smelling the flowers. Unfortunately for Ferdinand, live changes abruptly when he is stung by a bee. Discover how this young bull’s gentle demeanor alters bull fighting maybe forever.
It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr is the perfect book for the very young child. The vivid simplicity of this illustrated picture book looks at a wide range of differences with simple text and creative whimsical illustrations. A personal favorite: “It’s okay to lose your mittens.” To this day it baffles me that I grew up in the sub-zero New England winters and on more occasions than not managed to loose a mitten.