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How to Use Children's Books to Teach Tolerance and Respect for Others

Updated on March 15, 2012

The Power of Books in Teaching Respect

Unless you are living under a rock, you have seen the media coverage about people being treated with disrespect and even bullied because of their race, religion, or even sexual preferences. So how do we as a society change this belief that so many of our citizens have? My answer, start young and read books. Books are incredibly powerful and are an amazing tool to teach young people about prejudices and how to practice tolerance with others.

Helping Children Understand Others' Differences

So how can you use children's books to promote awareness and cause children to think about their relationship with others and the choices that their interactions cause? Here are a few tips to help you out.

  • Choose a story and read it. Select one of the stories below or one that you already know of and read it. Be sure that you use great reading strategies like looking at the pictures for clues, predicting what may happen next, and identifying the problem in the story.
  • Talk about the characters feelings and situation. Identify the feelings that the main character may be feeling at the time. Have your child or students think about and share how they know that this character is feeling this.
  • Make a personal connection. Making a personal connection is critical to helping young people understand differences and begin to build a sense of tolerance for others. Ask your child or students to think about a time when they experienced or witnessed a time when they or someone they know were treated poorly because of a difference. For older kids, I have them write about this first, and then share their thinking.
  • Make a plan of action. It is not enough to just read the book. The next step is to make a plan of action. How are you going to make a difference in someone's life that is being treated with disrespect or cruelty because of something that is different about them. I always tell my students that if they are not part of the solution then they are part of the problem. So make a plan to be part of the solution. Will you stand up to that bully? Will you tell a grown up? Will you set the example by treating that person with kindness and respect in spite of what others may be doing?

Books That Teach Respect

Five Great Books to Teach Tolerance and Respect

  1. Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester Tacky is a penguin who is the epitome of a bird of a different feather. He likes to wear bright colored clothing and do non-penguin things. The traditional penguins get very upset and frustrated with him because he is not like the rest of them. That is until the hunters come and Tacky becomes the hero.
  2. Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester  Wodney is a Wat, I mean Rodney is a rat. Unfortunately for him he is a rodent who cannot say his r's. He is teased continuously because of a speech impediment that is beyond his control and it takes a toll on his self esteem. One day the class gets a new student who is quite a bully. Wodney is able to banish the bully with the very speech that his classmates have teased him about. He becomes the one that everyone looks up to.
  3. The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane DeRolf This is a delightful book about crayons that must live together in one box. The crayons start out bickering about each other only to see in the end that they are able to compliment and enhance one another as the owner of the crayons creates a beautiful picture using all of the colors in the box.
  4. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes  This story is about a cute little mouse with an extraordinarily long name.  She is teased because of how long her name is and her parents do what most do, tell her not to worry and that things will be ok.  But that doesn't change how she feels each time she goes to school.  It is only when she realizes that her teacher shares the same problem of a long name that she begins to feel some comfort.
  5. Maniac McGee by Jerry Spinelli  Although all of the books above can be used with children of all ages, this one is specific to older children.  This chapter book explores the life of a "troubled" child who sees the world in a very different light.  His running leads him to a town that is literally divided along a racial line and no one understands why they won't interact with the other group of people.  This is a great conversation starter for young people about the power of doing what is right and questioning why things are the way they are in the world.


Be a Role Model

Remember to lead by example. The greatest lasting impact on your child or students will be the things that you do and say. These books are great tools but it is the conversations that you have and the way that you treat others that will really show your child how to be respectful of people who are different from them.


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    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you so much Stephanie, I really appreciate the kind comments and link! Books teach us so much and along with parental (or grandparent!) modeling as you stated, children will be very tolerant of others.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      9 years ago from USA

      This is such a wonderful hub about teaching children respect for others! Children absorb so many of their values from their parents and grandparents through example and through the fun activities that they do together. Although it's been a long time since my children and grandchildren were that young, your book suggestions are great, and I'm going to link this hub to my hub on 5 things that grandparents can teach their grandchildren.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Gail. Leading by example seems like such a simple idea but it is so important in all aspects of life for children. Thanks for your great comments.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      9 years ago from South Carolina

      Great hub! I must have missed it when it first came out so I was glad to find it today. Great advice about how to use books to promote acceptance, tolerance and respect of those who are different from ourselves. I also like that you emphasized that kids learn through example and it's important that we teach them through our own actions and words.

      Loved the photo of Grace and her special friend. The smile on both of their faces shows the beauty of love and acceptance!

      Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Glad you found it so easy to apply HennieN. I like things in my life to be as simple as possible and to share those simple, yet effective ideas with others. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

    • HennieN profile image


      9 years ago from South Africa

      Brilliant hub - voted up. Once again I like how practical this hub is. I can just go out and apply what was discussed in the hub!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Me too Tanya! Thanks for commenting.

    • TanyaBlanck profile image


      9 years ago from Moorpark, Ca

      I love Tacky the Penguin! Long time favorite for me. :)

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      You are very welcom Visionandfocus. I love using books to help children learn. Thanks for stopping by and reading.

    • visionandfocus profile image


      9 years ago from North York, Canada

      Awesome hub! Those are excellent choices and I will have to seek them out. Thanks for sharing!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      I am so sorry to hear that your cousin is having problems both with her health and her students. I'm not sure where she teaches but it is a problem that I find all too often in schools these days, including mine. These are great books to share and PLEASE share them with her. However a great one that I use to try to build classroom community and respect is Have you filled a Bucket today? by Carol McCloud. I have actually written a hub about it and how I use it in my classroom. You may want to check it out and share that one with her as well. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      10 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      I would like to show it to my cousin-teacher. She's having problems about hyper kids or unruly children who didn't listen to her most of the time. She's having a health problem on thyroid, so her ailment eat up most of her teaching time. Thanks for this great hub, teacher Cara!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      You are very welcome Anthea, thank you for stopping by and commenting.

    • Anthea Carson profile image

      Anthea Carson 

      10 years ago from Colorado Springs

      Thank you for bringing these books to my attention.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      I agree Wannabwestern. Glad you found it useful. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

    • wannabwestern profile image

      Carolyn Augustine 

      10 years ago from Iowa

      I appreciated the thoughts you shared in this hub. Parents often read children's books only as an avenue to better reading readiness and academic achievement, but this is another way that reading can enhance the life of a child. kudos.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Docmo, glad you enjoyed it!

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      10 years ago from UK

      Cara- an excellent hub with great book choices on the chosen theme. Well done!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Hope you find them useful Marie. Thanks for commenting.

    • Marie McKeown profile image

      Marie McKeown 

      10 years ago from Ireland

      I have never heard of any of these books before - thanks for sharing! Good tips too ..

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Genna, I appreciate the positive feedback.

      Pmccray, I totally agree. The disrespect that I receive from my students on a daily basis is a true testament to what you have said. I can do what I can in the classroom but it starts in the home. Thanks for the votes and share!

    • pmccray profile image


      10 years ago from Utah

      What a wonderful hub. Too many parents nowadays don't or won't take any accountability for the action of their offspring. This is called real parenting. Just as you teach your child how to walk and talk you also much teach them manners and respect. These are all learned behaviors and not passed on to our children through osmosis. Voted up, marked useful, awesome and shared.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      10 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Now this is teaching! Bravo..superb hub.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Mom, you're the hoot! I've already given Tammy a copy of this picture.

      Annmackiemiller, thanks for the comment. I try to incorporate life lessons through books as much as I can with my students.

    • annmackiemiller profile image


      10 years ago from Bingley Yorkshire England

      this is a wonderful lens - voted up

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      10 years ago from North Carolina

      Great job. I LOVE the photo of Grace holding Tommy. Be sure to share this with Tammy. I think the books you selected are wonderful--some seem like a real hoot. (that's southern for very funny).

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks, I appreciate it.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      10 years ago from Illinois

      Great hub, as usual, Cara. You are an awesome teacher to introduce your students to so many thoughtful books. Voted up and useful

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Wow that was fast Patty, I just got this posted! Thanks for the comment. I recently read Maniac McGee to my fourth graders and they LOVED it. Spinelli is a great author. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I really like Maniac McGee, but all of these books are great.


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