The start of the year is the traditional time for the all about me theme in preschool classrooms, but these books should be used all year long. Self-identity is an important topic, and when children have a strong sense of self, they can also accept others who are similar as well as very different than them. Build confidence and community with these books. If you are looking for all about me activities, check out my All About Me thematic unit. It’s filled with all kinds of activities that explore self-identity, family, community, and more. I find the All About Me theme a great time, especially if it’s at the start of the year, to dive into the topics of race and racism. As we talk about skin color, it’s a natural and important topic to cover, although this should not be the only time you do. For more resources about anti-racist teaching for ECE, check out this post.
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Our Favorite Day Of The Year by A.E Ali s all about holidays and what makes a day special enough to be our favorite day of the year. I love that this book includes so many different traditions from religious and non-religious perspectives. Too often children who are not religious are excluded from these types of books. Bravo, this is one of my favorite books!
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae is a very sweet story that asks how you can celebrate yourself if you are hiding your true self? Gerald is a giraffe who has convinced himself that he can’t dance. In the story, he learns that maybe he just needs different music. I love this book because it helps children learn that participation can look different for different people. We don’t all have to do something exactly the same to be a community.
I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont is a fun rhyming book that encourages self-acceptance and that it’s ok to like things about yourself that are opposite to each other. It’s ok to love yourself when you are quiet, and when you are loud, it’s ok to love yourself when you are brave and when you are scared. Liking yourself is about accepting who you are, and people aren’t simple. We have many sides to be proud of.
I Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo and Jason “Rachel” Brown is a lovely book written like a conversation between a dad and his son ( real-life dad and son co-authors) about being exactly as you should because you are perfectly designed to be you. I think it’s a great pick for a classroom for many reasons. It has incredible illustrations. It’s lovely to see a dad and son alone in a book. We don’t often get to see that, and best of all, the message that you are perfectly designed to be you no matter who you are or what you feel!
I Am Enough by Grace Byers is a wonderful book. I have used it for years and thought I’d shared it on my blog before, but I think this might be the first time. Well, I’m sorry because this is long overdue. The book is a poem about all the ways you can love yourself and how you are amazing and unique. It is also about recognizing the ways others are amazing and unique and our responsibility to respect each other because of that. I love this book. It’s beautiful illustrations and an important message about how we are all supposed to be different.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is such a lovely book. The main character is Unhei, a little girl who has just immigrated from Korea. She is trying to decide on an easy-to-pronounce American name, and her new class helps by offering up suggestions and places them in a name jar. As she gets used to her new surroundings and develops friendships, she realizes she doesn’t need an American name after all. I loved this book because there are so many great lessons about being yourself, being supportive of friends, and being brave in new situations.
Bodies Are Cool by Tyler Feder is such a rad book. I am so excited to include it in my teaching this year because we’ve needed a book just like this for ages. The book unapologetically celebrates every kind of body with wonderfully joyful illustrations to support the lyrical text.It goes through various parts of the body, celebrating different human variations with images to support them as well as others not included in the text. There are people doing all kinds of things, and the inclusion of things like a mom breastfeeding, an older gay couple, a child with a prosthetic leg, a colostomy bag, and more make me eager to share this with my students. There are no bad bodies. All bodies are cool!
Red: A Crayon’s Story by Micheal Hall is easily one of my favorite books of all time. All crayons come with a label but is that label always, right? Red came from the factory with a red outside. But even when he tried, and trust me, he tried, all he could do was color blue. It’s not until he is asked by purple to draw him a blue ocean that he finally finds a place where he belongs. We all have gifts, and sometimes those gifts aren’t what other people expect us to offer, but when we embrace what we are and how we really shine, then everything falls into place!
Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes is a lovely book about having confidence in who you are, losing that confidence but regaining it in the end. Chrysanthemum is a little mouse who loves her name until she goes to school and gets made fun of because it’s not a common name. Who can’t relate to this? I know I can. My name is common, but well… it’s McDonald. You can guess what kids did with that! I love that I have a book like this to share with my students to talk about names, teasing, and embracing the things that make us who we are, even if that means we don’t easily fit in. Ultimately Chrysanthemum learns to love her name again and regains the confidence in being herself that she once had. Another fantastic book from a consistently wonderful author.
Eyes That Kiss In The Corner by Joanna Ho is a beautiful book that celebrates Asian eyes and identity. This is a story about noticing that you are different than others -in this case, a little girl noticing her eyes aren’t the same shape as her friends’ eyes and turning it into a celebration. Yes, her eyes are different from her friends’ eyes, but they are the same as her family’s, which is beautiful. I love books that affirm pride in being who you are, and this book does that wonderfully. The illustrations by Dung Ho are the perfect icing on top of this magical cake.
Lovely by Jess Hong is well, lovely! The book asks, “What is lovely?” and the illustrations that follow answer that with a diverse group of opposites, all accepted as lovely. It celebrates being different and, more importantly, accepting different as lovely. The illustrations are the backbone of this book, and they do a fantastic job of including many of the fabulous differences in the world.
We’re Different, We’re The Same by Bobbi Kates is a fantastic book that talks about the similarities as well as differences about our bodies and uses familiar friends from Sesame Street to help. This is a great book to use as you create self-portraits and explore the human body and all the variations we see in our families, classrooms, and communities.
The Color Of Us by Karen Katz is a book I have often used to discuss color differences in skin tone. I urge teachers and parents to read this book before children start asking about differences. By then, children have often created stories and scenarios in their heads that may be completely inaccurate. Those stories are the seeds of bias and to help avoid planting them, we need to be proactive. This book is one tool for that. Lena travels around her neighborhood and with the help of her mom takes notice of all the different shades of brown of people’s skin. Every color is lovingly named, and diversity is celebrated. After the walk, Lena goes home to paint portraits of all of these people with all different shades of brown.
Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester is a great book for the All About Me theme. The book talks about multiple ways that humans are different and that race is just one of them. It discusses what racism is and how it is one way that people try to feel superior to others and that racial superiority is simply not a true story, no matter how often the story is told. I like how this book connects children’s existing experiences and uses them to name racism without any long age-inappropriate explanations. This book is perfect for preschool and kindergarten.
What Are Your Words ? by Katherine Locke is a book about pronouns and more. This book teaches children that pronouns don’t have to be fixed. They are dynamic and fluid for some people, and only you get to decide that. Beyond pronouns, this book notes that there are other words to describe you and your identity and celebrates that individuality too. As a child heads to a picnic with their uncle, they explore and ask neighbors and friends what their words are along the way. I love the diversity and welcome acceptance of all people in this book.
Stephanie’s Ponytail is my favorite Munsch book. I feel a little like I am cheating on The Paper Bag Princess, but I love Stephanie’s confidence. The story is about Stephanie whose friends, and even teachers start copying how she wears her ponytail. She moves it to the side, to the top of her head, even right in front of her face and they keep copying her. So she outsmarts them all with shocking results. The message though is about being your own person, a powerful one for kids today.
What I Like Most by Mary Murphy is a perfect book for All About Me as we dive into the things our students like most. In this book, a little girl shares all her favorite things, from apricot jam to her mama. I always include lessons about favorite foods, favorite books, and favorite colors in my classroom because it helps children tee that we all like different things that should be celebrated. Part of self-confidence is having the confidence to enjoy the things you love even if others aren’t into it. Young children need to know not only is that great but they don’t have to put down others for liking different things. Celebrating everyone’s favorite things is a wonderful way to teach this and this book does just that!.
A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O’Leary is a fantastic all about me book because families are part of who we are! This book starts with a child nervous to talk about their family because it’s not like everyone else. Soon as all the students share things that make their families unique, the child sees all families are different, but they are all families. I love that what the children share about their families isn’t the label most adults would put on the family in the illustration, which is a great gut check for our own biases. It labels the same-sex family as “Both my moms are terrible singers.” instead of “I have two moms.” This is a much more inclusive way to present families, not to mention more natural. It includes many different family structures from same-sex parents, to single parents, big families, families with a new baby, interracial families, families with divorced parents, families with foster children, and more.
Be Who You Are by Todd Parr is a bright cheery book with a serious message about the importance of loving yourself. Children love this book and Parr’s colorful illustrations. I would say though that books like this are great but should not be the basis of your talk about people being different colors, as these people are not realistic and the book itself is far too simplistic for the lesson to be meaningful. This is a fun book, but look for more realistic books to talk about race and the differences we see in people.
Shades of People by Shelley Rotner and Shelia M. Kelly is a wonderful book to talk about different shades of skin color. It uses big bright photographs of children and adults to show the wide array of different shades of skin we have in the world. This is a wonderful book for All About Me and as the first book to start talking about race. It briefly touches on race and racism but it’s not explicit. I plan to use this book to acknowledge and celebrate all the shades of people then follow it up with Let’s Talk About Race in my class or our first lesson about race and racism this year.
A Bad Case Of Stripes by David Shannon is about a little girl so worried about impressing others that she keeps changing and loses who she really is. This story is a cautionary tale about being yourself, and not being yourself. A great book for older preschoolers and young elementary-aged children who are starting to feel the need to fit in, even when it means ignoring who they really are. My 11-year-old and I re-read this last week, and hearing her insights about this was fascinating. I highly recommend reading it to your middle schoolers, too!
I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley is a wonderful book that I hope you have heard of before, but if not let me give you the scoop. Keyana’s mom does her hair every night. Like many little girls getting their hair done by their mom, she sometimes cries. But when she does, her mother tells her all the ways she is lucky and should be proud to have hair like hers. In the end, Keyana talks about why she loves her hair and which style she loves the best. A great story about having the confidence to be who you are. This is a great book for PreK because as we do self-portraits in PreK children can reflect on their hair, use collage materials to add to simple self-portraits, and really celebrate what makes them unique.
Your Name Is A Song by Jamilah Thompson-Bigelow is a beautiful book for an all About Me theme or any time. This book is all about how bad it feels when someone can’t correctly pronounce your name, and how to fix that. After telling her mom about her teacher not being able to correctly pronounce her name and how terrible it made her feel, her mom gives her a fantastic tool to feel empowered and turn it all around. I love this book’s inclusiveness, and its celebration of names, and how it encourages children to stand up for themselves in positive ways especially to adults in power. The illustrations by Luisa Uribe are absolutely stunning!