The Early Years (age 0-5) are an important stage in children’s education and development to teach them about diversity and acceptance as well as instil the fact that bullying and discrimination is wrong. 15-19th November is both Anti-Bullying Week and Trans Awareness Week and whilst I was searching for new books for my nieces (currently aged 5 and 7), I came across several that are perfect for children of these ages.
These 10 books I’ve chosen, aimed at children in the Early Years (but some are also suitable for those slightly older in KS1 and KS2) tell beautiful, brilliant stories about diversity, acceptance, confidence, and love and help teach children about the consequences of bullying and feelings. There were many to choose from and narrow down to, which I wish I had when growing up, but am so glad that they are increasing in popularity and are more readily available now.
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
The first book I stumbled across which inspired this blog post and is currently available for just £2 at The Works (or 6 books for £10). Perfect to coincide with Transgender Awareness Week which falls in the same timeframe as Anti-Bullying Week (Transgender Day of Remembrance is 20th November), Julián Is a Mermaid tells the story of Julián who is enchanted by the beauty and grace of mermaids and wants to become one. A sea-riously heartwarming “tail” about embracing your true self and loved ones learning to accept and support you whatever you want to do or become. The book has more beautiful illustrations than text but this short and simple story speaks volumes as the illustrations allow children in the Early Years to imagine for themselves what the text might say and encourages them to fill in the gaps.
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Based on the true childhood of notable transgender activist Jazz Jennings, I Am Jazz is another lovely book to supplement learning about Trans Awareness Week. The book has won several awards but has also sadly been the centre of controversy in some places. Nonetheless, it teaches children in the Early Years to speak up about how they feel about anything from a young age and challenges gender stereotypes that arguably prevent many children from playing with the toys they want, wearing the colours or clothes they want and in some cases, ultimately instilling doubt in their identity. The story also details the teasing and bullying Jazz received growing up but offers great advice on how to deal with that by just having confidence in yourself and your feelings.
My Daddies! by Gareth Peter and Garry Parsons
Released in April 2021 and also known as Adventures with My Daddies, Peters (author) and Parsons (illustrator) teamed up to create a story to celebrate and teach about diverse families. Drawing inspiration from their own lives as same-sex parents, the two of them tell the cute story of a little girl’s adventures with her two dads. The book not only represents children from a similar family background but also opens up discussions in the Early Years about multi-dimensional families. There isn’t a huge amount of text but the illustrations do most of the talking as they show us the little girl’s imagination and love for open-ended role-play with her dads. Although learning about LGBT issues is not a compulsory part of EYFS, learning about inclusion, differences, families and equal opportunities are and Early Years’ settings are legally obliged under the Equality Act 2010 and EYFS to give due regard to protected characteristics. Hopefully this will change and take the next step forward, just as learning about Black History Month has been introduced in some Early Years’ settings as part of their curriculum.
Llama Glamarama by Simon James Green and Garry Parsons
Garry Parsons lends his artistic skills again, this time to Simon James Green’s fabulous book Llama Glamarama. Green predominantly writes young adult novels, mostly dealing with LGBT issues, and this is his first foray into stories for younger children. Larry the llama has a secret – he loves to dance! What will the other llamas say? Although there is no teasing or bullying in the story, it allows children in the Early Years to talk openly about their feelings in relation to it – why is Larry scared to tell his friends and family? What has perhaps made him feel this way? It also lets children know that whatever they are or whatever they want to be there are others out there who are just like them.
Willy the Wimp by Anthony Browne
Willy the Wimp is surprisingly more than 35 years old (first published in 1984) and while it’s older than or almost as old as many other household book names and characters, it’s a far lesser known story and certainly one I had never heard of until quite recently. The story follows Willy the chimpanzee who is bullied by gorillas for looking like a “wimp”. Feeling down, he takes up exercises and bodybuilding and soon uses his newfound strength to confront the bullies. The great thing about this classic book is that it opens up topics of body image and confidence for discussion in the Early Years. How do children perceive themselves when they look in the mirror? Is this a result of what other people say to them? And how should they deal with bullies?
Elmer and the Big Bird by David McKee
Elmer the elephant is a favourite for many young children, with a number of books about him and his adventures published by author David McKee. Elmer and the Big Bird is all about sticking up for the little guy and showing others who use their size to intimidate and bully that it’s wrong. Children in the Early Years will love continuing to read about Elmer and what he gets up to and can really learn something from this story. And of course once again, McKee’s colourful illustrations will fascinate them as they read along.
This Zoo is Not for You by Ross Collins
Who doesn’t love a book about zoos? This Zoo is Not for You by award-winning author and illustrator Ross Collins follows a cute little platypus who visits the zoo, but the other animals are aloof and rude to him, listing reasons why he shouldn’t be there. But being the friendly fella he is, he forgives and forgets! An adorable story that teaches children in the Early Years to think about whether things they say hurt other people’s feelings, forgiveness and getting along with one another. It won 5* in the Picture Books category at the 2018 Teach Early Years Awards.
Tyrannosaurus Drip by Julia Donaldson and David Roberts
Famed children’s author Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and Stick Man – all extremely popular books in the Early Years) partnered with illustrator David Roberts for this roar-some story about not fitting in. Tyrannosaurus Drip is bound to be loved by many children since Dinosaurs are a favourite topic in EYFS. It tells the tale of poor “Drip”, a vegetarian dinosaur who is put in a T-Rex nest as an egg and hatches to the shock of his new “family”. They are not happy and are mean to him, so he runs away. But then what will he do and where will he go? A sometimes sad and sometimes funny but always touching story about finding your own sense of belonging. It’s also another one that can open up conversations in the Early Years about how to deal with bullies.
I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo
Told in lyrical rhyme, I Am Enough i a #1 New York Times bestseller and Goodreads Choice Awards 2018 Picture Book winner by American actress Grace Byers with illustrations by Keturah A. Bobo. Easy to read and perfect for helping children in the Early Years with new words, spelling and rhyming, this book is a self-assuring ode to the young readers about being confident in yourself and understanding differences between themselves and others. The words in the book “sometimes we will get along, and sometimes we will disagree” help teach children that there will be people who they don’t always get on with but to not worry about them and just be happy within themselves.
Troll Stinks! by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross
And last but not least, Troll Stinks! stood out to me because it’s very modern and deals with the topic of cyber bullying – not that children in the Early Years should be having access to phones and the internet in the first place anyway… However, it teaches them an important lesson to continue remembering when they are older and might have a phone that any form of bullying is wrong. Lightly inspired by the characters in The Three Billy Goats Gruff, this story builds on the curiosity of children who like to play with anything they can find and explores the learning journey they go through as they discover the consequences of their actions and how they feel or make others feel.
Thanks for reading and I hope you found some of the titles useful if you’re looking for books for children in the Early Years to teach them about anti-bullying and diversity. If you have any more you would suggest, do comment and share!