Inspiring readers: Understanding differences

Content Team
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In the second in our series on using books with Lyfta, our Professional Development Lead, Anna Szpakowska, explores how children’s books, alongside Lyfta’s immersive digital stories, can help to dispel prejudice and develop children’s understanding of those from different backgrounds.
A student reading
A student reading
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"To claim that literature on its own is going to change reality would be an act of madness. It seems to me no less foolish to deny that it can aid in making this change."

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As Galeano says, simply reading a book is not enough on its own to change the world. Nevertheless, the act of reading about, or seeing and interacting with, characters and people who are different from ourselves certainly helps us dispel prejudice and develop empathy.
In this blog, I've selected some of the best children's books you can use to explore and challenge prejudice and stereotypes (suitable for key stage 1-4) alongside the Lyfta storyworlds that can help bring these themes to life.

Key stage one

At key stage one, readers could be introduced to a wide range of faiths through Madeia Cohan and Sarah Walsh's 'Hats of Faith', (as recommended by Haleema Ahmed, year two teacher at Three Bridges Primary School) a beautifully illustrated book where readers learn that many religions share the common feature of using a hat or head covering as part of their belief system. Used alongside our Brave on the Pitch storyworld, learners can explore the use of the turban in the Sikh faith in more detail as well as experiencing a 360° degree Gatka practice.

Key stage two

Key stage two students will love RJ Palacio's beautiful novel, Wonder, which comes highly recommended by year 4 and 5 teachers at Three Bridges Primary School. Wonder follows Auggie who, having been home-schooled until the end of fourth grade due to a facial disfigurement, begins fifth grade when his parents decide he ought to experience more of the world. The book explores how the community learns to deal with difference and asks its readers to consider the meaning of empathy and friendship. It could be used alongside The Singer Who Could Not Speak storyworld, which not only helps learners to understand the impact of partial paralysis on singer Tamara, but it also explores accessibility in the city of Amsterdam.

Key stage three

For students aged eleven to fourteen, reading Tariq Mehmood's You're Not Proper would be a great way to explore how young people choose to practice their Muslim faith and how they reconcile different parts of their identity during their teenage years. The book explores the lives of Muslim teenagers Kiran and Shamshad, who follow Islam but choose to practice in different ways. This book would work well alongside our Wealth of Choices storyworld, which introduces Asmir, a young Danish Muslim who is exploring his faith alongside his own emerging identity.

Key stage four

For older students, reading Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go would be a wonderful place to start to allow students to explore philosophical questions around morality and mortality. The novel challenges readers to consider what it means to be human and would work well alongside our Becoming Me series of storyworlds. Based in Denmark, the series follows six young people, all of whom practice different faiths. Each story explores issues around morality and faith.
Character & Values
Cultural Capital
Global Learning
Human Stories
Inspiring Readers
Social Emotional Learning
Diversity Equity Inclusion
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