Three Wonderful Books Highlighting Socio-Economic Diversity and Kindness

Last week, I posted lists of our favorite first day of school books, as well as our favorite school stories for building empathy, kindness, awareness, and self-love. Today, I thought I’d highlight three of those favorite stories: The Hundred Dresses, Each Kindnessand Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse. All three of these stories build around similar themes (socioeconomic diversity, inclusion, and kindness among others!) but can target different ages or interests, and all three are absolutely worth reading!

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The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin —  Written in 1944 and winner of a Newbery Honor Medal, The Hundred Dresses has stood the test of time. Inspired by a true story from the author’s childhood, this is the story of three girls in the same class at school. Wanda wears the same old dress to school every single day, but claims to have a closet full of 100 beautiful dresses at home. Peggy and Maddie are best friends; Peggy lets it be known that she doesn’t believe Wanda has those dresses, and Maddie struggles with wanting to go along with Peggy but also wanting to stand up for Wanda. There is so much beauty and insight in this story, leading to so many possibilities of conversations about right and wrong, standing up for others, kindness, and generosity. This is a chapter book, but it’s a quick read with illustrations. When I was in the classroom, I used to read Thank You, Mr. Falker on the first day of school, and then I’d start The Hundred Dresses on the second day of school. I’ll be reading it with my older daughter in a few weeks, before she starts school, and I intend to revisit it with her (and eventually with our younger daughter, too) every summer before school starts. It’s just that thought-provoking. Recommended for ages 6-9, but could definitely be used with older audiences.

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Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis — Another award winner (this time the Coretta Scott King Honor Award for Non-Violent Social Change and the Jane Addams Peace Award, given to books promoting peace, social justice, global community, and equity), Each Kindness tells similar story to that of The Hundred Dresses, a story of missed opportunities for kindness, inclusion, and acceptance of others. The story of the two girls’ interactions (or lack thereof) is just a small part of Each Kindness, however. The powerful lesson comes when one of the girls leaves the school and the teacher leads a class discussion on the ripple effects of even the smallest acts of kindness. As with The Hundred Dresses, Woodson does not wrap this story up in a pretty bow at the end, allowing readers to contemplate the message and their own lives. Lewis’s beautifully illustrated paintings evoke perspective and emotion, tugging even deeper at the heart of the audience. Recommended for ages 5-8, but also appropriate for older audiences.

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Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell, illustrated by Corinna Luyken — The most recently published of these 3 books, Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse does indeed have a happier resolution than the other two. As with Wanda, Adrian Simcox is a boy with little money but lots of imagination. His classmate, Chloe, doesn’t understand the power of his imagination, though, and loudly and bluntly insists that he’s lying when he says he has a horse at home. Readers may cringe as she points out every reason why she knows he can’t possibly have a horse at home… But her insightful, wise, and kind mother knows the way to change Chloe’s heart is through showing, not telling… Be sure to notice Luyken’s storytelling through her illustrations, starting and ending with the beautiful endpapers and making masterful use of both white space and colors in between! Recommended for ages 3-5, but absolutely wonderful for older children, too.

Have you read any of these? All of these? What other stories do you love that help children build empathy and understanding of differences, especially that of social classes?


Most links above are Amazon Affiliate links. That means that your purchase price stays the same, but I get a tiny commission every time you buy books using my links.

6 thoughts on “Three Wonderful Books Highlighting Socio-Economic Diversity and Kindness

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