Books on differences can make a difference

By Blair Bonczynski, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

We strive to be good people and to teach our children to be the same.  But not everyone IS the same, of course, and that’s something to be celebrated. With all the news stories around the world presented to us daily, it is inevitable that children will ask questions as they seek answers about current events as well. How can we help introduce children to the concept of differences?

Books can often be the solution. We are an office of book lovers and I wanted to do some research on books that could help start a discussion on differences.

The information, opinions, and recommendations below come from Barb Gilman. Barb is a wife, mother and Catholic School Teacher at St. Margaret Mary School in Omaha. This school year is her 15th year teaching third graders at SMM.

The Global Read Aloud begins in October so it is a great time to promote a love of reading. Here are ten books to check out.

This book was this year’s winner of the Global March Book Madness!

August Pullman was born with a facial deformity. This story covers his experience going to school for his 5th grade year. The book takes the viewpoint of different people in the story. You can read other books by RJ Palacio that takes the viewpoint of the other people from this story.

(The younger grade (1-3) selection of the Global Read Aloud)

Bixby Alexander Tam, known as Bat, is on the autistic spectrum. His family and school work really well with him and he is making strides. His mother is a vet and she brings home an orphaned skunk. Bat helps to raise the skunk and even reaches out to a skunk expert for help. A positive story that shows the growth of a boy with family and school support.

(Older grade(4-6) selection for the Global Read Aloud)

Amal lives in Pakistan with her family. Her father has accrued debt from the local ‘Boss’.  Amal is a free spirit who loves to learn and who speaks her mind.  When she accidentally ‘insults’  the ‘Boss’  she is put into indentured servitude. Great book for learning about Pakistani culture and a discussion on the treatment of women and underprivileged families in Pakistan today.

(Older grade(6-8) selection for the Global Read Aloud)

A must read for our times to help explain the struggles and heartbreak that a family goes through when they are refugees. The ending contains a surprise twist that I didn’t see coming (but my 6th grade former student did!)

Beautiful picture book sharing the story of Fr. Flanagan. From his childhood to the founding of Boys Town to traveling the world. He is now a Servant of God. This book was a part of #SaintBookTrek This book traveled to seven schools this spring.

Stanley suffers from crippling social anxiety. His school counselor and his friends help him with tools for success.

Caleb suffers from Cystic Fibrosis. Sensitive and touching story on dealing with family and friends

Sweet picture book showing Zara’s dog Moose wanting to visit her at school. Zara is in a wheelchair.

Graphic Novels are very popular! I had to buy another copy after this book was read so much. Set in the 1970s, featuring a young girl who loses her hearing at age 4 after a sudden illness.  She was given a hearing device to help her deal with this huge instrument, she pretends she is a super hero!

10 year old Mia immigrates from China with her family. Life is very hard as they navigate America and experience racism. Family and friend support are very important in this book. This book will lead to a lot of discussion.


Barb Gilman is on Twitter @BarbInNebraska.

  • Co-Founder of #CatholicEdChat a Twitter Chat for Catholic school teachers- Saturday’s 8am CT. We started November 2012
  • Blogger at Catechists Journey for Loyola Press since November 2014
  • 2014 NCEA Distinguished Teacher for the Plains States
  • Five time presenter at the NCEA national convention
  • Cover Girl for Today’s Catholic Teacher, Fall 2016