Happy First Month of School for so many of our Colorful Pages Community! I am feeling a flood of emotions as the first day with my Kindergarteners rapidly approaches. There are so many conflicting rules, instructions, and mandates that I am hearing all around me – “Make sure students are working collaboratively” but “keep them at least three feet apart”; “center social emotional learning” but also “make sure to fill in those ‘gaps’ from the last two years to get them back up to ‘standard’”. It is maddening.

With all of this anxiety swarming around me, the clearest thing I am clinging to in my pedagogy is: How can I create a Caring Classroom Community? I know there are many other things that I have been planning or forced to think about. However, if my students can (1) stay as safe and healthy as possible and (2) know they are cared for by their peers, myself, and themself, I would be proud of the classroom community we created. 

There are so many good books to include in the beginning of the school year to create a Caring Classroom Community! And, I want to challenge us all to make sure we are including diverse books extensively during this time. The power of diverse books to help our students feel empowered and empathetic is unmatched. Therefore, below is a list of Diverse Picture Books for a Caring Classroom Community. Use these 10 books to build connections between students, foster a love for their community, and affirm themselves. Many of these books I am using in my own first weeks of Kindergarten. Happy Back to School, Colorful Pages Community!

How Alma Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Exploration

Age Range: 4-8 years old

Juana Martinez-Neal writes and illustrates this heartwarming picture book. In Alma and How She Got Her Name, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has six names that she is determined to find out more about. While complaining that her long name never fits, her father sits Alma down and tells her the stories behind each of her names. Alma realizes her name is actually the perfect fit!

In order to create a Caring Classroom Community, we must make sure everyone knows each other’s name within the community. To do so, read this book and then either do a name craft or name game with your students. My kiddos will be doing a name puzzle that they glue together to also practice glue stick expectations. 

Your Name is a Song, by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 5-10 years old

Your Name is a Song brings up an unfortunately common story. A young girl is frustrated and disheartened because no one was able to say her name at school. Her mama shows her the beauty in names and ties it back to the noises and joy all around them. Together, they disprove all the prejudice, racism, and hurt the young girl encountered at school. And together, they uncover the song and warmth to every name.  

Names are so important in building a Caring Classroom Community! It is vital that we learn how to correctly pronounce each name and help students find empowerment within their names. I will be reading this in our first full week of Kindergarten and then we will be doing a Name Craft similar to this one.

I Am Enough, by Grace Byers

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Representation (with a little Conversation at the end)

I Am Enough is a picture book that has about a sentence every couple pages with an affirmation and ends with a discussion about worth. The affirmations from the narrator compares themself with an object or nature to share all the good things about themselves. It starts out with “Like the sun, I am here to shine.” and ends with “I am enough.”

Grace Byers is a MUST in your first few weeks of school! She writes such affirming diverse books. You could use I Am Enough to have students create affirmations for themselves and the class. Help them by providing sentence stems they can use such as “I am ____” or “We are___” and make a class daily affirmation! 

When We Are Kind / Nihá’ádaahwiinít’íigo, by Monique Gray Smith 

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Between Representation & Exploration

Age Range: 5-8 years old

When We Are Kind is a short picture book that is centered around kindness. In the beginning, each page details an act of kindness people do. The last section is all about how we feel when someone is kind to us. The book ends by stating, “When we are kind, we remember we are all related”. I love the focus on collectivism in this line and throughout the whole book!

When We Are Kind is a great book to introduce what it means to be kind in your classroom community. You can read it and have students brainstorm ideas as part of your class charter (see RULER Curriculum or this website to learn more). Or, you could use our World Kindness Day Lesson Plan and do a general acts of kindness lesson. 

Isabel and Her Colores Go to School, by Alexandra Alessandri

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Between Exploration and Conversation

Age Range: 5-8 years old

Alexandra Alessandri’s new bilingual picture book is about a little girl named Isabel who is nervous to go to her new school. At the school, they speak English, unlike Isabel’s home where she speaks Spanish and feels more comfortable. Her first day is full of misunderstandings and more anxiety. However, by the end of the day, Isabel uses coloring to communicate and make new friends! Alessandri flawlessly weaves in Spanish throughout the book to bring the story more to life. 

Isabel and Her Colores Go to School is perfect for talking about how to make people feel welcome in your classroom community. You can read the book and stop at different sections to talk about how Isabel feels in her new school. Then, at the end, your students and you can brainstorm a list of how to create a more welcoming environment! It is also a great book to help ESL students see mirrors and every student to see windows. 

Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope, by Jodie Patterson

Age Range: 4-8 years old

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Representation

Born Ready is a beautiful true story of Jodie Patterson’s transgender son. The picture book is about a little boy who was born and given the name Penelope. He loves ninjas and, using his special ninja powers, he tells his parents that he is a boy. The next pages share how P opens up his true identity to everyone in his life. I love this story because of the theme of acceptance shown from every community member!

You could use Born Ready to talk about acceptance and identity with your students. Introduce the vocabulary word of “acceptance” with a vocab card. Then, you could read the picture book focusing on what P’s family and friends are doing to show acceptance and affirmation. At the end, you could brainstorm a list or have students make posters about what they can do to affirm and accept people in their classroom community and beyond! 

What’s My Superpower?, by Aviaq Johnston

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Representation with some minor Exploration elements

What’s My Superpower is a picture book about Nalvana, a little girl who is in search of her superpower. She sees all her friends having superpowers and tells her mother about all of them. Nalvana’s mother keeps reassuring her. At the end, Nalvana’s mother shows Nalvana that her superpower has been right in front of her this whole time. 

This would be a great picture book to get your students to think about themselves and develop growth mindsets! During the read aloud, you could chart the superpowers of Nalvana’s friends and how Nalvana is feeling when her friends discover their superpowers. You could also ask students to make text-to-self connections because Nalvana’s feelings are very common. At the end, have students draw and write about what their superpower is AND what they want to grow their superpower in! 

Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You, by Carole Boston Weatherford

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years

Carole Boston Weatherford wrote Be a King, which is a picture book all about how readers can “Be a King” by living out and acting on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s dream. The main characters are all students so readers can really see themselves in this book.

Be a King is a VERY quick read that is absolutely perfect for the younger students’ attention span or even older students (I swear that I was a successful 2nd/3rd Grade Teacher because I knew how to keep my carpet lessons short and sweet haha). You all could discuss how your classroom community can “Be a King” within your school. This will help students feel more connected to the broader school community and think about how they can give back!

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh, by Supriya Kelkar

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Between Representation & Exploration

Age Range: 5-8 years old

In The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh, Harpreet loves colors and he has a different color from every mood and experience! One day, Harpreet’s mom shares that she got a new job and they have to move. After their move, Harpreet feels really lonely and sad no matter how much his parents try to cheer him up. Then, Harpreet meets a new friend and starts to wear more of his old cheerful colors. 

I love using this book to introduce feeling words and the Mood Meter in my own classroom. I usually photocopy different pictures of Harpreet and use them to define each feeling word. At the end, you can have students write and draw a Feelings Check-In and share with others how they are feeling. This helps root your Caring Classroom Community in emotions. 

My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood, by Tameka Fryer Brown

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Representation 

Age Range: 3-9 years old

my cold plus lemon pie bluesy mood by Tameka fryer brown

In this book, Brown writes a story about a young Black boy going through a new mood on every couple of pages. The boy associates each mood with a color and talks about what that mood feels like. Brown does a brilliant job using descriptive words and metaphors to fully flesh out each mood the boy experiences. 

If you have been following Colorful Pages for a long time, you know that I LOVE this book! This is another book I use to introduce feeling words and the Mood Meter in my classroom. I photocopy the different pictures of the young boy and have students come up and place them where they think they go on the Mood Meter. It is a great way to make the Mood Meter come alive and help students see examples of how to do a Feelings Check-In. 

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