Diverse Books for Graduates

After Saturday night’s national graduation, I’m sure many of you are thinking of the perfect graduation gift for family, friends, and students. When I graduated with my Master’s in Education, I was gifted Oh the Places You’ll Go with special written notes from my students in my practicum classroom. My student teacher supervisor topped this off with a gift card to purchase books for my classroom library as a first year teacher. We shared so many precious memories that year and I’m still in touch with many of the students and my mentor from this classroom.

Books are a great gift to send stories of encouragement and applause for accomplishments, while also holding fun things like money and gifts cards too. Now knowing what I know about Dr. Seuss after a recent study on his work, I’d like to offer you some alternative options for books that don’t include stories with offensive stereotypes and racist caricatures. If you’d like to learn more about this issue please check out this article from Teaching for Tolerance or the almighty Google search. In the words of the late great Maya Angelou, “When you know better, do better.

With that being said, here are a few of my favorite books to give to graduates as they reach such a special milestone in life. From the power of yet, motivation for all the things you can do, the power of creating your own story and simply showing empathy to the world, these books cover a variety of themes.

The Invisible Web: A Story Celebrating Love and Universal Connection by Patrice Karst, Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (Illustrator)

The Invisible Web explores all the ways we are connected through invisible strings of love. It shows diverse characters and situations that bring us all together. Additionally this story explores how when we forget about our strings they can get tangled up and unravel resulting in unkind behaviors, exclusion, and even violence. To combat this we need more people who collectively care about the world , which ultimately makes our invisible web stronger.

Wherever you Go by Pat Zietlow Miller, Eliza Wheeler (Illustrator)

This beautiful book celebrates the excitement of experiencing new adventures and discovering all the possibilities of where life might take you. In the end, all roads lead back home, so this book encourages us all to be brave, be courageous, and explore all that the world has to offer.

The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi, Lorena Alvarez (Illustrator)

This powerful book encourages us to not give up and to continue working hard to accomplish the things we want in life. It shows the frustration we experience when we’ve tried and failed time and time again, while reminding us of all the things we’ve overcome. It introduces the Magical Yet, which is the difference between saying “I can’t do this” vs “I can’t do this, yet.” Sometimes all it takes is a little shift in perspective and this is the perfect book to introduce this topic and motivate anyone embarking on something new.

365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Precepts by R.J. Palacio

I was first introduced to this book when I worked as a social emotional learning coach. A brilliant teacher used it to spark discussions during morning meeting time. If you’ve read Wonder, then you are familiar with the amazing precepts Mr.Browne gave his students daily. Though this book is not a story it is filled with encouraging quotes and anecdotes that are inspiring for all ages.

The Sky is the Limit: A Celebration of All the Things You Can Do by Lisa Swerling, Ralph Lazar (Illustrator)

This inspiring story is filled with beautifully rhythmic words of encouragement to reach for the stars and explore all the wonders of the world. This a reminder that there are dreams to make come true and new roads to travel in this celebration of exploring life’s limitless opportunities. 

Journey by Aaron Becker

This wordless book takes you on a journey through a magical world created by a little girl using nothing but a red crayon to write her own story. The illustrations are beautifully detailed and immediately transport you into this whimsical story. From heroes to villains and everything in between, the true take away for this story is the ability to control and create your own destiny.

Only One You by Linda Kranz

I read this story many times my first year of teaching. It was an important message for me, just as much as it was for my students. Only One You gives inspiration to people of all ages. It encourages us to believe in ourselves, stay true to who we are, and though we may veer off path, we can always get back on track and learn from those lessons. The main takeaway from this story is to accept yourself and accept others for who they are.

I am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde, Peter H. Reynolds (Illustrator)

I am Human, similar to I am Yoga and I am Peace, is a beautiful book filled with mantras and affirmations highlighting the power each of us have when making decisions throughout life. From apologizing to offering a kind word or a simple smile, this book captures the importance of empathy and compassion, while encouraging humanity to embrace its imperfections.

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