Tag Archives: inclusiveness

Inclusion Alphabet

Written & Illustrated by: Kathryn Jenkins

For ages: 3 years and up

Language: English

Topics Covered: Literacy, Inclusion, Neurodiversity, Disability, Friendship, Vocabulary, Family, Love, Global Community, Social-Emotional Learning & Development.

Summary: For our second skill to take into 2020 we’ve chosen Inclusion! Our planet is a wonderful, weird, diverse place.  It becomes better when we include and advocate for everyone, especially marginalized populations.  By understanding the intersections of oppression, we can be better allies and embrace the teachable moments throughout the day.

This is a creative take on an alphabet book, both teaching the letters and telling a story with it.  The book encourages the reader to recognize and embrace differences. We really like how the book demonstrates that something or someone might be unfamiliar, but friendship is possible.  There is an emphasis on social-emotional learning and kindness to others.  In the back is a glossary with all of the words used, and they are great for vocabulary development.  This book would be a great tool to inspire action, introduce a new classmate, or help with teaching how to be a good human.

This book was kindly sent to us by Kathryn, but all opinions are our own!

About the Author & Illustrator:

Kathryn Jenkins is the author and illustrator of this book, and also runs a website called Inclusion Project!  The website has resources, a list of things that her family loves (that have withstood the test of 3 children!) and a shop where she designs her own inclusion-based shirts.

Here is a blurb from her website about why she does the work she does:

“In 2016, I started Inclusion Project because I wanted to talk about inclusion with others and how its not a place but rather — a mindset. I truly believe that, as a mom to three boys, one of has autism, — we can be more inclusive and kind and respectful and promoting of each other. We can believe in each others success, even though it does look different and because of my strong passion in that belief

Because of my strong passion in that belief, I picked up a pen and wrote a book. It was published in October 2018 and titled Inclusion Alphabet. I also designed shirts. I created several coloring pages and I am now currently writing a second and third book book full of worksheets and ideas to spread more inclusion. Be sure to join my community on Instagramand Facebook. You will find me there a lot. For any collaboration opportunities or features, check out my media kit. “


We’re here to profile #lgbtcharacters who #smashstereotypes!

It’s Day 10 folks, and we’re so excited that the topic of #lgbtcharacters has come up, because as two queer educators, we are super passionate about the representation that younger LGBTQ folks can experience with the wealth of books now available!

To check out our list of Top Books with LGBTQ Characters, read on!

from the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea

Written by: Kai Cheng Thom

Illustrated by: Wai-Yant Li and Kai Yun Ching

For ages: 3-8 years

from the stars in the sky to the fish in the sea is an incredible portrait of what it feels like to be a child in between. Gorgeously illustrated by Way-yant Li and Kai Yun Ching, it tells the story of Miu Lan. “Born when both the moon and the sun were in the sky”, Miu Lan “couldn’t decide what to be.” Supported and loved by their mother, Miu Lan is a “strange, magical child” with the ability to adopt various animal characteristics. This empowering home environment is contrasted with Miu Lan’s experience at school, where the other students are all “either boys or girls”. Challenging gendered expectations, Miu Lan must discover how to express their truth fully and without fear.

Jack Not Jackie

Written by: Erica Silverman

Illustrated by: Holly Hatam

For ages: 4-8 years

 When the two kids’ mom gives them haircuts, Susan goes first.  She wants her hair long, but Jackie urges their mother to keep cutting more and more hair off until Susan yells that Jackie looks like a boy.  “I am a boy!” says Jackie, and their mother is quiet, finally recognizing that Jackie has been telling them something important for a long time.  Jackie asks Susan to call him Jack, and Susan begins to cry, saying she doesn’t want a brother, she wants a sister.  Susan goes to sit alone in her tent to think things over, and brings art supplies with her.  She draw two pictures-one of Jackie and one of Jack. Susan notices that both pictures have the same eyes and the same smile. 

I Am Jazz

Written by: Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

Illustrated by: Shelagh McNicholas

For Ages: 4-8 years

This book is great for readers of any age, introducing the real-life experiences of of trans youth in a thoughtful, understandable way.  The prevailing notion of living your own personal truth has been a very strong narrative most recently, and Jazz’s story adds her valuable experience. She says that she feels good when she does things like play on the girls soccer team, and ignores kids in her school that make fun of her.  The book closes with Jazz saying she doesn’t mind being different, because she is special and proud to be who she is!


Written by: Alex Gino

For Ages: 8-12 years (chapter book)

George wants to be Charlotte in the school play, but the role is only for a girl.  She secretly looks at beauty magazines and wishes she were friends with the glossy images.  These characters are beautifully developed for a young adult novel, and have very believable reactions and dialogue with each other. This book is beautiful, and the unexpected twists and turns make it hard to put down.  The plot explores a young mind from that believable perspective-unsure yet sure at the same time, nervous but yearning to break free.  Character development and tender exchanges between George and Scott were unexpected and welcomed, as Scott accepts George immediately, and subverts the “older brother is a bigoted jock” narrative that is common in a lot of LGBTQ media!

When You Look Out the Window: How Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin Built a Community

Written by: Gayle E. Pitman

Illustrated by: Christopher Lyles

For Ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Activism, LGBT Families, Community, Acceptance.

Summary: This book is told from the perspective of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin.  It briefly talks about how they met and fell in love, eventually buying a house on a hill.  The rest of the book looks at community landmarks in San Francisco that they had a hand in creating for fellow LGBT San Franciscans.

The story is relatively vague, just introducing these landmarks to children.  In the back of the book is more detailed information about the specific buildings associated with their activism.  Detailed are: the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, City Hall, Castro District, and the Glide Urban Center among others.  Also included is a note to parents, caregivers, and educators that talks about the importance of making the LGBT community visible in books and educational communities.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever been to San Francisco?
  • Have you ever seen any of these places in the book?
  • Do you think these women feel proud that they helped form a sense of community in the city they loved so much?
  • How do you think you can help form community with the people around you?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Find out about landmarks in your town. Who made them, and why are they important to your community?
  • Is your school named after someone? What did they do for people to have a school named after them? If your school isn’t named after an important community figure, who is someone you think should have that honor? Write some letters and let the school board know your opinion!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

gayle e pitmanGayle E. Pitman, PHD teaches Psychology and Women/Gender Studies by day at Sacramento City College. By night, she writes children’s books and engages in other forms of subversive creativity. Her debut picture book, This Day in June, won the 2015 ALA Stonewall Award, was a Rainbow List Top Ten pick, and won the IRA’s 2014 Notable Books for a Global Society Award. How’s that for her first shot at writing children’s books! Her books, teaching, and general commentary have been featured in publications ranging from School Library Journal to The Advocate. She has also been interviewed on National Public Radio, the BBC News, “Good Day Sacramento,” and various podcast

christopher lylesChristopher Lyles is a professional illustrator who spends much of his time working in a variety of media and exploring new fields. Since graduating art school in 2001 and MFA in 2015, Chris has contributed to children’s publications, greeting cards, editorial illustrations, and gallery installations. His illustrations have been recognized by The Society of Illustrators LA and American Illustration. Chris also exhibits his work on the East coast and in LA. Recent clients include Little Bee Books, Lerner Publishing, and Magination Press. Chris lives in the small town of Simsbury, Connecticut with his beautiful wife, their two young sons, and dog, Riley. His interests include hiking, exercising, traveling, teaching art to children and looking for old stuff.

I Am Jazz

Written by: Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

Illustrated by: Shelagh McNicholas

For Ages: 4-8 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Trans youth experience, gender identity, self-acceptance, self-love, courage.

Summary: Jazz is just a regular girl!  She loves dancing, the color pink, and mermaids.  Jazz also has a “girl brain but a boy body”.  Jazz explains that she is transgender, and she has always felt like a girl (even if her family was confused and thought she was a boy).  Jazz explains that when she was young, she would feel sad when her parents would make her wear “boy clothes” outside of the house.  Jazz tells us that one day her parents took her to meet a new doctor that asked lots of questions, and then told her parents that Jazz was transgender.  Jazz then tells the reader how happy she was that her parents supported her, and let her start wearing “girl clothes” to school.  She says that she feels good when she does things like play on the girls soccer team, and ignores kids in her school that make fun of her.  The book closes with Jazz saying she doesn’t mind being different, because she is special and proud to be who she is.

This book is great for readers of any age, introducing the real-life experiences of of trans youth in a thoughtful, understandable way.  The prevailing notion of living your own personal truth has been a very strong narrative most recently, and Jazz’s story adds her valuable experience.  The idea of hormone blockers or surgery is not addressed.  The last page of the book also includes information about the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation as well as photos of Jazz as a young child.

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you think Jazz feels in the beginning of the book when she can’t wear the clothes she wants to?
  • How do you think you would feel if you parents insisted you were something that in your heart and brain you knew you weren’t?
  • Have you ever had to fight to make people believe something about yourself?
  • What could you say to a friend that tells you something about themselves that they might be nervous about or afraid that you wouldn’t believe them?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Talk about what it means to be “normal”and “different”.  Why do you think people tease others that seem different?
  • How do you deal with people that aren’t kind to you?  How could you help a friend that was feeling frustrated that people were making fun of them?
  • Write a plan as a classroom or group of how everyone treats each other.  Have everyone sign the pledge, and post it in the classroom.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

jessica herthelJessica Herthel is the co-author of the critically acclaimed children’s picture book about a transgender girl, entitled I Am Jazz. The American Library Association recently ranked I Am Jazz number 3 on its list of the country’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2015, and it is consistently named a Best Seller in Amazon’s children’s sections. Today, Jessica travels around the country speaking to students, parents, teachers, politicians, and non-profit groups about how to use the book as a teaching tool, and why it is imperative to make schools and communities a safer place for all children. Her mix of booksmarts and humor can put even the most reluctant audiences at ease. And because Jessica comes to this work as a straight ally, no question is off-limits or too personal. A session with Jessica provides audiences with a better understanding of what it means to be transgender or a transgender ally in today’s rapidly changing world; and how to support unconditionally the friends, students, coworkers, or family members in our lives our lives who, for whatever reason, need to be reminded that “different is special.”

jazz jenningsJazz Jennings is an American YouTube personality, spokesmodel, television personality, and LGBT rights activist.  Jennings, a transgender teenage girl, is notable for being one of the youngest publicly documented people to be identified as transgender, and for being the youngest person to become a national transgender figure. Jennings received national attention in 2007 when an interview with Barbara Walters aired on 20/20, which led to other high-profile interviews and appearances. Christine Connelly, a member of the board of directors for the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, stated, “She was the first young person who picked up the national spotlight, went on TV and was able to articulate her perspective and point of view with such innocence.” Her parents noted that Jennings was clear on being female as soon as she could speak. Jennings is an honorary co-founder of the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation, which she and her parents founded in 2007 to assist transgender youth. In 2013, she founded Purple Rainbow Tails, a company in which she fashions rubber mermaid tails to raise money for transgender children. Jennings hosts a series of YouTube videos about her life, titled “I Am Jazz”, making her one of the youngest trans women in history to speak out on issues publicly. Jennings stars in the TLC reality TV series, I Am Jazz, which focuses on her life with her family as a teenager and as a transgender youth. The series premiered on July 15, 2015.

Shelagh McNicholasShelagh McNicholas studied Illustration at Kingston Polytechnic and now lives in Liverpool with her daughter Molly…her constant inspiration, and their cat ‘Jelli’. She specializes in Children’s Book illustration including picture book, educational and special needs work. She is passionate about drawing and painting, always having a sketch book in her pocket to capture the moment. These include sketching behind the scenes at Wimbledon Theatre, ballet classes and farm yards. Shelagh is happiest when surrounded by children in their own little worlds, sketching them just being themselves, never spending more than seconds on catching the pose or scenario. Returning to the peace and quiet of her studio to draw and paint where she develops the characters to fit a specific brief. Most of her picture book artwork is created using a 3b soft pencil and watercolors. She is currently illustrating picture books for the USA and Australia working with publishers such as Scholastic USA, Random House, Tiger Tales and Hinkler and I am working on a few stories of my own!


Written by: Stacy McAnulty

Illustrated by: Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

For Ages: 5-6 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Self-Expression, Individuality, Self-Acceptance, Inclusiveness.

Summary: This book takes the stereotypes fed to women and young girls through the media and turns them on their head with illustrations. Suddenly, “smiling sweetly” means enjoying sticky orange slices with friends rather than anything else! This book shows a diverse cast of young girls having fun outdoors, playing sports, and playing instruments for their community.

This book is fantastic. It shows girls catching frogs and planting flowers, covered in mud. It takes a statement about makeup and shows a group of friends dressed as pirates! An important part of any book collection that emphasizes kindness, individuality, and strong girls.

Reflection Questions:

  • What activities that are in the book are ones you do with your friends?
  • Do you think some people believe that girls can’t do things like play in the dirt or climb trees?
  • What would you say to someone that tells you what you should do based on if you’re a boy or girl?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Have a conversation about what it means to be “beautiful”, and make a list of different things some people might not consider beautiful. This can be tangible or intangible: kindness, healthy plants, a compost pile, etc.
  • Pick an activity featured in the book that you’ve never done, and try it! Did you meet any new friends? Would you try this activity again? If not, that’s ok! It’s very brave to try something new.

About the Author & the Illustrator:

stacy mcanultyStacy McAnulty is a children’s book author, who used to be a mechanical engineer, who’s also qualified to be a dog therapist (is that a thing???), a correspondent for The Daily Show (why not), and a Green Bay Packer coach (totally!). She has written dozens of books including her debut middle-grade novel, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl , a Junior Library Guild Selection, and the 2017 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor book Excellent Ed, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. Her other picture books include Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years, illustrated by David Litchfield; Max Explains Everything: Grocery Store Expert, illustrated by Deborah Hocking, Brave and Beautiful, both illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff; Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite, illustrated by Edward Hemingway; and 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath, illustrated by Joy Ang. She’s also authored the chapter book series Goldie Blox, based on the award-winning toys, and The Dino Files. When not writing, Stacy likes to listen to NPR, bake triple-chocolate cupcakes, and eat triple-chocolate cupcakes. Originally from upstate NY, she now lives in Kernersville, NC with her 3 kids, 3 dogs, and 1 husband.

joanne lew vriethoffJoanne Lew-Vriethoff was born in Malaysia and grew up in Los Angeles. After receiving her B.A in Illustration from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, she worked in the television industry as a character and concept illustrator for clients pitching children’s television shows.  She later moved to New York and trained as a graphic designer at a Design Studio working with various clients such as Columbia University, New School, and IJDG in NYC. Moving to Amsterdam gave her the opportunity to get back into making art again.  Many of her illustrations have themes of childhood nostalgia, humor, mischievousness, loneliness, love, social interactions friendships with an added touch of magic.. Her first published book, a Dutch poetry book set her on the path to becoming a children’s book illustrator.  Since then she has been illustrating picture books, middle grade novels, early readers, educational books, magazines,and for a toy branding company. Her favorite medium is pen and ink, mixed media. Joanne lives with her family in Amsterdam. Besides making art, she loves traveling and road trips with her husband and kids, photographing street art, cycling along the Amsterdam canals at midnight, snorkeling, day dreaming, collecting picture books.

A Family is a Family is a Family

Written by: Sara O’Leary

Illustrated by: Qin Leng

For Ages: 4-7 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Family, Self-Acceptance, Foster Families, LGBT, Acceptance, Family Structure.

Summary: This book covers a multitude of family types when a teacher asks their class to describe who they live with.  The narrator is nervous, because their family “is not like everybody else”.  Families with lots of kids, two singing moms, lots of grandparents, families that look alike and not alike, shared custody, and interracial families are described.  The narrator listens to all of the different families in their class before reflecting on their own family.  The narrator remembers a time when at the park, someone asked their foster mother to “point out their real children” and their mother’s heartwarming response.

This book is very comprehensive in terms of family structure.  The illustrations are adorable and diverse.  The descriptions the children give are believable, and humorous.  This book would be a great addition to a classroom unit on family or community, or for the beginning of the school year when many students learn about each other’s home life.

Reflection Questions:

  • Do you see your own family structure in this book?
  • Do you think it matters who is in a family more than how much love is in the family?
  • Can you think of any families you know that aren’t pictured in this book?  How do you think they feel?  Do their families show up in any other books you know?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • This book is perfect for several units prevalent in early childhood classrooms.  It is one of the most comprehensive books I have seen for young children, and also a great introduction to the differences between biological, adopted, and fostered children.
  • Have students talk about what is similar in their families to families in the book, and what is different.
  • Write a letter to a new student that might be feeling nervous because they feel like their family is “different”.  How can you make them feel more comfortable joining your class?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

sara oleary

Sara O’Leary (she/her) is a writer of fiction for both adults and children. She is the author of the award-winning series of Henry books — When You Were Small, Where You Came From and When I Was Small — and This Is Sadie, all illustrated by Julie Morstad, and You Are One, illustrated by Karen Klassen. A graduate of the UBC Creative Writing Program, she has taught screenwriting and writing for children at Concordia University in Montreal.


qin leng
Qin Leng (she/her) lives and works as a designer and illustrator in Toronto. She graduated from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema and has received many awards for her animated short films and artwork. Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, written by Chieri Uegaki, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award, and received the APALA Award for best picture book. Her most recent books include Away, written by Emil Sher, and A Family Is a Family Is a Family, written by Sara O’Leary, which was selected for USBBY’s Outstanding International Books List.

Sparkle Boy

Written by: Lesléa Newman

Illustrated by: Maria Mola

For Ages: 4-8 years

Language: English, slight Spanish mention.

Topics Covered: Self-Expression, Gender Expression, Family Acceptance, Inclusiveness.

Summary: This book opens with two siblings, sister Jessie and younger brother Casey, in the living room of their home.  Jessie is dancing in a sparkly skirt, and Casey reaches out, wanting to wear it as well.  Jessie tells Casey he can’t wear a skirt because he’s a boy, but their mother says if Casey wants to he can.  His mother gives him a skirt that is too small for Jessie, and he is delighted to spin around.  Jessie is not so thrilled about this.  This scenarios happens again regarding nail polish, and sparkly bangles gifted to Jessie from their Abuelita.  Jessie is not happy, Casey is the happiest.  When the family plans a trip to the library a few days later, Casey wears all of his new sparkly things.  Jessie says Casey looks silly, but their mother says “Casey looks like Casey” and the family departs.  At the library, a young girl calls Casey a sister to Jessie, and Casey corrects her, saying he is a brother.  The girl says Casey is a girl, and can’t be a brother.  An older boy overhears the conversation and starts mocking Casey wearing a skirt, saying he looks weird.  Jessie comes to his defense, and they leave.  The final two pages of the book show Casey and Jessie sitting together, wearing all of their sparkles: skirts, nail polish, and bangles.  This is a realistic story, with some family members feeling reluctant to embrace someone that defies gender stereotypes.

Reflection Questions:

  • Why do you think Jessie feels like Casey shouldn’t wear what he wants to?
  • How do you think Casey feels when his mom lets him wear the different shimmery things that his sister gets to wear?
  • What do you think makes Jessie change her mind about what Casey wears when they’re at the library together?
  • Do you know anyone that wears things that not a lot of other people wear?  How do you think it makes them feel to have or wear them?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Think about what makes you the happiest when you wear it.  What does it look like, what colors are in it?  Draw yourself.
  • Think about what you could do if you saw somebody making fun of what someone was wearing the way the older boys were making fun of Casey.  How might someone feel when another person stands up for them?

About the Author & the Illustrator:

leslea newmanLesléa (pronounced “Lez-LEE-uh”) Newman is the author of 70 books for readers of all ages, including A Letter to Harvey Milk; October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard; I Carry My Mother; The Boy Who Cried Fabulous; Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed; and Heather Has Two Mommies. She has received many literary awards, including creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, two American Library Association Stonewall Honors, the Massachusetts Book Award, the Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Award, the Highlights for Children Fiction Writing Award, a Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fiction Writing grant, the James Baldwin Award for Cultural Achievement, the Cat Writer’s Association Muse Medallion, and the Dog Writers Association of America’s Maxwell Medallion. Nine of her books have been Lambda Literary Award Finalists. Ms. Newman wrote Heather Has Two Mommies, the first children’s book to portray lesbian families in a positive way, and has followed up this pioneering work with several more children’s books on lesbian and gay families: Felicia’s Favorite Story, Too Far Away to Touch, Saturday Is Pattyday, Mommy, Mama, and Me, and Daddy, Papa, and Me.

maria mola

Maria Mola  is a freelance illustrator and artist. She is from Barcelona, Spain, but she currently lives in Chicago with her husband and their two little children. She is passionate about bringing her art to the children’s picture book industry. Her clients include Lerner Publishing, Editions Anna Chanel, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill among others. Maria has worked in the educational field and for the trade market and she regularly collaborates with magazines too. Maria creates her work both digitally and in traditional media, often combining both. She specially enjoys bringing new characters to life. When not creating children’s book dummies, she enjoys playing with her children, reading and photography. Most of the times doing everything at once. With a cup of coffee, of course.