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Conversation Resources

posted Apr 11, 2018, 12:31 PM by Julie Alonso

This is a collection of resources that might spark a discussion about upstanding, kindness, and empathy. There are many more beyond this list; please seek out the school’s librarians or counselors for more suggestions. Descriptions adapted from

Picture books for grades K-3:

Power of Language:

Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya

The inspiring, true story of Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani girl who stands up and speaks out for every child’s right to education. A great example of someone who uses words to be an upstander.

Chocolate Me by Taye Diggs

The boy is teased for looking different than the other kids. His skin is darker, his hair curlier. He tells his mother he wishes he could be more like everyone else. And she helps him to see how beautiful he really, truly is.

Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman

Bear didn't mean to break a little girl's kite, but she's upset anyway--upset enough to shout "HORRIBLE BEAR!" Bear is indignant. He doesn't think he's horrible! Then Bear gets a truly Horrible Bear idea. What will he do next? This book reinforces the idea that we sometimes speak/act out of our own internal anger/frustration without taking the time to think about how it will impact others. The ending underscores the fact that saying sorry afterward/acknowledging our wrongdoing can make a big difference.

Ouch Moments by Michael Genhart

When kids say tiny hurtful things to others, they might not realize the cumulative effect these comments can have. Ouch Moments looks at how kids are affected by these words—not just the target, but the bystander and speaker as well.. Includes a "Note to Parents and Caregivers."

My Buddy Slug by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

After spending too much time together, best friend Alex explodes at Slug--and Slug's feelings are bruised. Friendship isn't always easy!

Let's Talk About Race by Julius Lester

In this acclaimed book, Newbery Honor author Julius Lester shares his own story as he explores what makes each of us special.

Just Kidding by Trudy Ludwig

Teaches that making a habit out of teasing and saying, “Just kidding!" doesn’t make it ok. A rare look at emotional bullying among boys.

Sorry by Trudy Ludwig

Does an apology count if you don't really mean it? Includes afterword by apology-expert Dr. Aaron Lazare, M.D., note from author, and discussion questions.

My Name is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin MD M.D.

When Bilal and his sister transfer to a school where they are the only Muslims, they must learn how to fit in while staying true to their beliefs and heritage.

Words Are Not for Hurting by Elizabeth Verdick

Encourages young children to express themselves using helpful, not hurtful, words. Includes a note for parents and caregivers.

Doing the right thing:

The Bully Blockers Club by Teresa Bateman and Jackie Urbanovic

Lotty Raccoon is excited. This year she has a new teacher, new backpack, and new shoes. But her enthusiasm quickly wanes when Grant Grizzly begins bullying her. With the help of her fellow students, she forms the Bully Blockers Club.

The Empty Pot by Demi

Demi's exquisite art and beautifully simple text show how Ping's gardening failure is turned triumphant in this satisfying tale of honesty rewarded.

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry

In this funny story about kindness and friendship, Stick and Stone act as some of the best friend duos in children’s literature and display a great way to encourage Upstanding vs. Bystanding.

One by Kathryn Otoshi

Even though the other colors don’t like how Red is acting, what can they do? When no one speaks up, things get out of hand — until One comes along and shows all the colors how to stand up, stand together, and count.

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts and Christian Robinson

When Sally takes a chance and stands up to the bullies, she finds that one small girl can make a big difference.

The Juice Box Bully by Bob Sornson and Maria Dismondy

Have you ever seen a bully in action and done nothing about it? The kids at Pete's new school get involved, instead of being bystanders. When Pete begins to behave badly, his classmates teach him about "The Promise". Will Pete decide to shed his bullying habits and make "The Promise"?

Peace Week in Miss Fox's Class by Eileen Spinelli

It's Peace Week, and the rules are simple: don't say mean things, and help others! But maybe that's not so simple after all. Can Miss Fox's Class keep the peace?  Great for discussing “think before you speak / act.”

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

The true story of the family whose success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.


Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

Each question CJ asks is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.

Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson

Can one child's good deed change the world? Ordinary Mary starts a chain reaction that multiplies around the world.

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate wants to make her feel better, wondering: What does it mean to be kind?

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

When Chloe's teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she'd shown a little kindness toward Maya.

Chapter books for grades 4-8:

NOTE: preview the book first to make sure the content and reading level are age-appropriate for your particular reader(s)

Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings

Tragedy strikes when the DiAngelos’ kayak overturns in the bay, and nextdoor neighbor Brady wonders if it was more than an accident. Soon, Brady discovers the terrible truth behind the kayak’s sinking, and it will change the lives of those he loves forever. Priscilla Cummings deftly weaves a suspenseful tale of three teenagers caught in a wicked web of deception.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

The fifteen-year-old narrator of this ostensible murder mystery is autistic, prone to fall silent for weeks at a time and unable to imagine the interior lives of others. Reading this story gives a window into his experience, building the reader’s empathy and compassion for others.

Books by Carl Hiaasen: Hoot, Scat, Flush, and Chomp

Carl Hiaasen’s chapter books for middle-grade readers feature kids standing up for what is right.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

The perspectives in this compelling story-- switching among main character Auggie, his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others-- converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

I never had a brain until Freak came along. . .That's what Max thought. All his life he'd been called stupid. Dumb. Slow. It didn't help that his body seemed to be growing faster than his mind. It didn't help that people were afraid of him. So Max learned how to be alone. At least until Freak came along. Freak was weird, too. He had a little body, and a really big brain. Together Max and Freak were unstoppable. Together, they were Freak the Mighty.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this four-starred reviewed tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken directly from today’s headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they're both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL. Joe's lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi's family just moved to America from India, and he's finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. Joe and Ravi don't think they have anything in common -- but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

A young girl's kindness, compassion, and honesty overcome bullying.“When reviewers draw a parallel between Mockingbird and Lauren Wolk's Wolf Hollow, they are being neither hyperbolic, nor lazy. They are merely doing justice to Wolk's beautiful story.” — NPR, Best Books of 2016

Parenting resources:

Better World Ed

Wordless videos and short stories from around the world that ignite curiosity, empathy, global literacy, and youth leadership. We call these story kits "Empathy Challenges".

Beyond the Golden Rule: a Teaching Tolerance publication

A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice

Build Character Strengths with Quality Media

How to support kids' character and life-skills development through media -- and parenting. By Caroline Knorr


The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness, by Dacher Keltner, Jason Marsh, Jeremy Adam Smith

Leading scientists and science writers reflect on the life-changing, perspective-changing, new science of human goodness.  In these pages you will hear from Steven Pinker, who asks, “Why is there peace?”; Robert Sapolsky, who examines violence among primates; Daniel Goleman, who proposes “constructive anger”; and many others.  A collection of personal stories and empirical research, The Compassionate Instinct will make you think not only about what it means to be happy and fulfilled but also about what it means to lead an ethical and compassionate life.

Forty children’s books about civil rights and social justice

This booklist gives suggestions for the basic civil rights of all children.

It’s Time to Have “The Talk”

You don’t have to be an expert on texting, Instagram, Minecraft -- or whatever else your kids are into -- to have The Talk. Start by reading up on what's going on in your kids’ world (for younger kids and older kids). Ask them to show you what they like online, and why. Make sure to listen :) Then, express a few basic expectations, with the understanding that this isn't a one-and-done kind of chat. Good luck (you’ll be fine)!

Making Caring Common

A project of Harvard Graduate School of Education.  Many resources on this website!

Narrative 4

MISSION: builds a community of empathic global citizens who improve the world through the exchange of personal narratives.

NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman (book)

One of the most influential books about children ever published, Nurture Shock offers a revolutionary new perspective on children that upends a library's worth of conventional wisdom. With impeccable storytelling and razor-sharp analysis, the authors demonstrate that many of modern society's strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring--because key twists in the science have been overlooked. Nothing like a parenting manual, NurtureShock gets to the core of how we grow, learn and live.

The Power of Words (note: this lesson is taught in 3rd grade at Town)

What should you do when someone uses mean or scary language on the Internet?

Stomp out Bullying: What to do if your child is a bully

It takes a courageous and open parent to realize that their child has a problem and that they need help.

Take a stand and lend a hand: GLSEN No name-calling week

Being an ally or a friend to someone who is being picked on may feel uncomfortable or scary, but there are safe ways in which we can all "Take a Stand and Lend a Hand."

toughLOVE: Raising Confident, Kind, Resilient Kids (book)

Combining a high level of nurture with an emphasis on boundaries and structure, toughLOVE shows parents how to help their kids become capable, responsible, and productive from the first day of kindergarten through the first day of college…and beyond.

The Heart of Parenting:  Non-Violent Communication in Action (Article)

How to role model kindness, with examples.

The Yes Brain, by Dan Segal and Tina Pyne Bryson (book)

When facing challenges, unpleasant tasks, and contentious issues such as homework, screen time, food choices, and bedtime, children often act out or shut down, responding with reactivity instead of receptivity. This is what New York Times bestselling authors Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson call a No Brain response. But our kids can be taught to approach life with openness and curiosity. Parents can foster their children’s ability to say yes to the world and welcome all that life has to offer, even during difficult times. This is what it means to cultivate a Yes Brain.  In The Yes Brain, the authors give parents skills, scripts, ideas, and activities to bring kids of all ages into the overwhelmingly beneficial “yes” state. You’ll learn:

• the four fundamentals of the Yes Brain—balance, resilience, insight, and empathy—and how to strengthen them

• the key to knowing when kids need a gentle push out of a comfort zone vs. needing the “cushion” of safety and familiarity

• strategies for navigating away from negative behavioral and emotional states (aggression and withdrawal) and expanding your child’s capacity for positivity

Thank you to Ivy Lavie and Jaymie Oppenheim for contributing to this list!