Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's Okay to Be Different

Author & Illustrator: Todd Parr
Grade Level: late pre-k - 2nd grade
SJE: Element 2 - Respect for others

Buy it here!
This book is also available at major book chains, such as Barnes & Noble or online at

To learn more about this book from a teacher's point of view, as well as view a lesson plan using this book, click here!

Todd Parr's It's Okay to Be Different is attractive and eye-catching to not only an adult eye but also intriguing to its target audience, children between late pre-k (4 years of age) to 2nd grade (8 years of age). Inside this book one will find several examples of ways people can differ from one another, other than your average race, gender, age, etc. examples. A fun example found is on page 14 where Todd Parr writes, "It's okay to eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub." Although this example may seem silly, each example he gives mentions aspects of life young children are becoming aware to, such as outward appearances and family lifestyles. Overall, this book is illustrated with fun, bright colors and really tells children it is okay to be different than other people. My favorite piece of this book is that the colors and images Todd Parr uses are realistic but also relative to a cartoon; they are fun and show people with different hair color and skin color than normally seen such as blue skin or a yellow dog.

How I would use it in a classroom:
I think this book would be a great introduction to an activity such as "Star of the Week" or "Student of the Week." It teaches children that differences are okay and very normal, in fact more normal than they may be accustomed to at such young ages. A child who is adopted or is a different race than the majority of their peers will feel more at ease to discuss where they come from and who they are after reading this book. Also, this will teach children to respect the differences in others and become more understanding to lifestyles different from their own.

Element 2: Respect for others
This book fits so well into element 2 because it respects ALL differences that are seen across the board. Although a teacher may feel that showing a book about a culture different from a majority of their students will help them to respect others, it is limiting. This book covers many different differences from simple, fun likes and dislikes to more sensitive topics such as families and disabilities. Approaching certain issues may be difficult for a teacher and a group of 25-30 five year old children but this book is written directly to children and will ease his/her way into many discussions about everything from different cultures to different pets. We all have differences and learning to accept our own will in turn help to respect those differences found in others around us. This book can also be used to represent Element 1 (Self-Love and Knowledge). I believe it can be used to demonstrate this element because as I already stated, learning to love ourselves and accept our own differences can lead into respecting the differences of everyone we encounter in our lifetimes.

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