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Back to School! Part II: Access, Equity & Inclusion

Books about going back to or starting school, like those in our first post, can tell stories about an exciting new adventure, an everyday event, or a rich experience of culture. Or, like the titles in this post geared toward older children, going to school books that feature Black and Indigenous people and People of Color (BIPOC) can be a more focused study of educational access, equity, and inclusion, posing questions like:

  • Who gets to go to school and who doesn’t?
  • How can schools be oppressive or liberating?
  • What kinds of challenges do students face in schools -- historically and today?

Here are some important titles, arranged by topic, to share with the children in your life. With older kids, any could be the catalyst for a conversation about how school isn’t always fair and what they can do to help make school a place where every student feels welcome, safe, and free to learn. These books may also empower children who are experiencing injustice at school to speak up and/or ask for help. Many of these titles are also great to use with younger children and can give them a foundation for later understandings of issues of access, equity, and inclusion.


Beyond the necessity of learning about the histories of oppression within their own schools and broader education systems of which they are a part, there are very valuable lessons in these books -- not only about strength and resilience -- but resistance too.

Summer of 1969


by Sara W. Berry, Juanita G. Floyd and Tracy Applewhite

It was the summer of 1969, and things were about to change in the life of Cozett Juanita Gambrel. Integration of public schools had begun, and she would be the only black child in her new class. Her wise mother spent the summer laying the foundation of strength and love which would be needed to face the changes. "Bring forth the heart of a child, dear Lord," her mother prayed each night, for she knew the pure heart of a child did not see race but only love and friendship. ... based on the real life account of Juanita Gambrel Floyd.--Cover page 4

Biography Cross Group Oppression & Resilience

When I was eight


by Christy. Jordan-Fenton, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and Gabrielle Grimard

Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, this book chronicles the unbreakable spirit of an Inuit girl while attending an Arctic residential school. Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. Ignoring her father’s warnings, she travels far from her Arctic home to the outsiders’ school to learn. The nuns at the school call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do menial chores, but she remains undaunted. Her tenacity draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But the young girl is more determined than ever to learn how to read.

Biography Cross Group Oppression & Resilience



by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison has collected a treasure chest of archival photographs that depict the historical events surrounding school desegregation. These unforgettable images serve as the inspiration for Ms. Morrison"s text--a fictional account of the dialogue and emotions of the children who lived during the era of "separate but equal" schooling. Remember is a unique pictorial and narrative journey that introduces children to a watershed period in American history and its relevance to us today. Remember will be published on the 50th anniversary of the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision ending legal school segregation, handed down on May 17, 1954

Informational Oppression & Resilience

Girls' Education

The right to safe, quality education and access to lifelong learning has never been and is still not a guarantee for girls. The following books address this reality and tell stories of Black and Indigenous girls and girls of color who have challenged this in big and small ways.

Education as Privilege

Widespread global poverty and economic marginalization means that formal education remains a privilege, rather than a right, for far too many children around the world. The following books feature protagonists who face this reality and find their way to school, despite.


Bullying, though only recently identified as such, has been and continues to be an issue for many young students. It is characterized by targeted and aggressive peer-to-peer behavior and often includes a power inequity shaped by racial, cultural, sexual, gender, and other social norms. Picture books can be very helpful in talking to children about how to identify, prevent, and intervene on bullying, or even process through an actual experience of bullying.

The day you begin


by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López

Other students laugh when Rigoberto, an immigrant from Venezuela, introduces himself but later, he meets Angelina and discovers that he is not the only one who feels like an outsider.

Cross Group Race/Culture Concepts

Nusaiba and the 5th grade bullies


by Asmaa Hussein and Zul Lee

"Nusaiba is excited about school – especially show and tell! But after hearing a mean comment in the school hallway about what her mother is wearing, Nusaiba slumps at her desk all day. Through a fantastical journey of adventure and self-discovery, Nusaiba gains the confidence necessary to embrace her identity and stand up for herself." -- publisher

Beautiful Life Cross Group

Lila and the crow


by Gabrielle Grimard

Lila has just moved to a new town and can't wait to make friends at school. But on the first day, a boy points at her and shouts: "A crow! A crow! The new girl's hair is black like a crow!" The others whisper and laugh, and Lila's heart grows as heavy as a stone...Now every day at school, Lila hides under her turtleneck, dark glasses, and hat. And every day when she goes home, she sees a crow who seems to want to tell her something...At her lowest point of despair, an encounter with the crow opens Lila's eyes to the beauty of being different, and gives her the courage to proudly embrace her true self." -- publisher

Cross Group

Welcoming All

The following are stories about making space for and welcoming all children in schools.

All are welcome


by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

Illustrations and simple, rhyming text introduce a school where diversity is celebrated and songs, stories, and talents are shared.

Any Child Cross Group

Someone new


by Anne Sibley O'Brien

When three children, Jesse, Jason, and Emma, are confronted with new classmates from different ethnic backgrounds, they strive to overcome their initial reactions, and to understand, accept, and welcome Maria, Jin, and Fatima.

Cross Group

The buddy bench


by Patty Brozo and Mike Deas

Having seen what being left out is like, children become agents of change, convincing their teacher to let them build a buddy bench. Buddy Benches were introduced in Germany in 2014. When a child sits on the bench, it signals to other children to ask him or her to play. Patty Brozo’s children bring a playground to raucous life while Mike Deas’s illustrations invest their games with images of planes, dragons and elephants. The children match their imaginations with empathy, identifying and swooping up the lonely. -- publisher


The buddy bench


by B.D. Cottleston and Hazel Quintanilla

Buddy Benches are arriving in schoolyards across the nation. In this story, the buddy bench launches two new friends on a chilly adventure. On a surprisingly snowy day in Texas, a young student finds himself braving recess alone. That is until he spots a new face sitting on the school's Buddy Bench. After a quick introduction, the two spend their recess discovering fun ways to enjoy the snow. By the end of recess, both kids leave the playground with a brand new friend. This sweet story of friendship brings the Buddy Bench's purpose to life. -- publisher

Any Child Cross Group

For more than 200 other picture books that portray a diverse array of school experiences featuring BIPOC characters, search our database here.

Many of the cover images on this site are from Google Books.
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