Differences are everywhere and within each of us.
But while some differences are innate – such as personality traits – others are much more visible.
We all have physical differences, from our colors to our shapes and sizes to other aspects of our bodies. And as our babies grow into their toddler years, they begin to notice these visible differences as they make sense of their world and learn to categorize.
During this time, it’s so important that we make physical differences part of their norm. The easiest way to do this is with constant exposure – through the places we go, the people we see, and the media we consume.
We have been delighted at how many children run up to Brenna at a store or a park, excitedly recognizing her because they have seen her poster during a Children’s Miracle Network campaign or seen our family photo on Instagram. They are not concerned with her skin differences, because they already understand!
Besides firsthand experience, reading wonderful picture books is the next best way to show our children all different kinds of beautiful!
Today, I’m sharing some of our favorite children’s books about looking different, physical differences and different appearances…Happy reading!
Sam’s Birthmark by Martha and Grant Griffin
Sam was born with a large birthmark on his face, but he hardly notices it. One day, a little girl points out how different he looks because of it and he feels a little self-conscious of it. His mom helps him to see how different ALL of his friends look from him and from each other. Sam announces that he likes his birthmark and “it’s in the right place!”
A Very Big Bunny by Marisabina Russo
A bunny, Amelia, is solarge that she is always last in line at school and none of the other students will play with her. Eventually, a new classmate shows her that size is not the most important thing and her larger stature is special.
We’re All Wonders By RJ Palacio
“I know I can’t change the way I look. But maybe, just maybe, people can change the way they see. If they do, they’ll see that I’m a wonder. And they’ll see that they’re wonders too. We’re all wonders!” From the author of the best-selling young adult book Wonder comes the poignant reminder of the importance of getting to know people from who they are on the inside.
We’re Different We’re the Same by Sesame Street
“We’re the same. We’re different. That’s what makes the world such fun. Many kinds of people, not just one!” A sweet rhyming book that shares about how we are all different from each other –particularly about how we look– but that we all have similar feelings.
The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
This book is just beautiful and made me get a little choked up while reading it to my kids. A mother points out to her little girl how many different shades of brown there are while she is painting a self-portrait. The girl then notices how beautiful and unique everyone’s skin color is, comparing them all to foods like cinnamon, chocolate and peaches. My children really related to the little girl mixing different paint colors, because they love to paint. Then we talked about how even in our own little family, we all have different colors of skin, and they thought that was pretty neat!
Gemina the Crooked Neck Giraffe by Karen B. Winnick
This is the true story of a giraffe named Gemina who lived at the Santa Barbara Zoo. At some point, a bump began to grow on Gemina’s neck, causing her neck to become crooked. No one could figure out why, and it didn’t seem to bother her. She became a feature of the zoo, and children came from all over the world to see her – especially children with physical differences who found such inspiration in her. The “crooked-neck giraffe” touched many lives until her death in 2009!
Happy In Our Skin by Fran Manushkin
A rhyming book that shares positive observations about everyone’s skin, from various colors to appearances like freckles or birthmarks. It explains the jobs our skin does for our bodies and how unique our skin makes us. “What a wonderful world!” it proclaims at the end. “Such a hullabaloo – with all of us in it. See the splendid view.”
All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka
A poetic book about how the skin, hair and appearances of children all over the earth are vastly different and beautiful. It proclaims that the love we can have for each other is made up of all of that beauty as well.
Little Smudge by Lionel Le Neouanic
In this story, the little smudge is lonely because none of the colorful shapes will play with him. His parents help him to recognize his ability to do powerful things, like changing into different shapes. The triangle, square and rest of the gang are intrigued, and Little Smudge shows them how to change shapes too. They have so much fun together and become friends quickly.
Looking for more suggestions?
Check out my list of 10 great children’s books that celebrate differences and my list of the best children’s books about disabilities… and grab a copy of my ebook Celebrating Our Stories! Celebrating Our Stories offers an in-depth look at how to teach kids about differences, explores why reading is so vital in educating children, and gives more than 100 excellent book recommendations categorized by topic – from being yourself, to physical differences and disabilities, to kindness.
Any other books on your list?
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