10 Books Celebrating Incredible Individuals & Math and Language Arts Activities

Celebrating 10 Incredible Individuals (Individuality)

(Bonus Math and Language Arts Activities)

It is important to celebrate each child’s individuality. So I compiled 10 books that highlight what makes an individual special. I added educational bonus math and language arts activities.


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1. Be Who You Are– Written & Illustrated By: Todd Parr

Little Brown Books for Young Readers       October 25, 2016

Lexile Measure: 270

Ages 4-8 years

USA Grades: Pre-K- First Grade

Be Who You Are is a beautiful celebration of being your authentic self. I am pleased that Parr wrote a touching letter to his readers at the beginning of the story about how he felt different and didn’t quite fit in.

Parr’s dazzled me with his boldly colored pictures and his simple but effective words. Now, more than ever, we need books like this that celebrate the diversity that makes the world go round.  So, “try new things, be confident,… just be who you are!”

This book is a great way to show children how valuable they are. I would highly recommend this book!

Awards/Recognition(s): Todd Parr has won numerous awards for his book that celebrate diversity including: New York Times Bestselling Author, Family Equality Council, Parent’s Choice Gold Award, Mom’s Choice Award Honoring Excellence, and more

2.The Name Jar– Written & Illustrated by Yangsook Choi

Dragonfly Books, Reprint edition                   October 14, 2003

Lexile Measure: 590

Ages: 4-8

USA Grades: Kindergarten-Second Grade

Read to Grades 3-5 Before the activities listed after review activities listed after review

The Name Jar is a poignant tale about a girl named Unhei who leaves everything and everyone she knows (except her parents and brother) in Korea to come to America. On the first bus ride to her new school, Unhei becomes painfully aware that she is different from the rest of the students after some of the children tease her by mispronouncing her name.

By the time Unhei arrives at school, she is so ashamed of her name that she pretends that she does not have one. This intrigues the class, and the next day,  Unhei chooses from the names her classmates put in a jar. Each day, more names get added.

At the end of the week, Unhei goes to the Korean market, and one of her classmates, Joey overhears the store owner call her by her name. She explains that her name means grace in Korean. Joey is fascinated by this revelation, and on Monday, Joey flips the script.

The Name Jar is an endearing story about how our differences are a celebration about who we are, and how embracing diversity helps us grow as individuals.

Awards/Recognition(s): Reading Rainbow Book & One of the Chicago Public Library’s Children and Young Adult Services Best of the Best, the Author has won the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award in addition to other awards for her books
Math Activity 1: GRADES 3-5 (modify as appropriate)

Fractions/Percentages: 1) Write down all the students’ names in the class on separate pieces of paper, 2) Fold them, and put them in a jar as it appeared in the book. 3) Then, have students pick names. 4) Come up with word problems with fractions, percentages, basic probability. (5) Students can be set up in groups of 4, and work in groups.)

Probability: What are the chances of pulling a name that starts with the letter_____?

What are the chances of pulling a name with _____ letters in it? Go based on the number of students. How many letters in their names…

Fractions/Percentage: What percentage/fraction of the students have more/less than ____ letters in their names? Go based on the number of students. How many letters in their names…

Bonus: for fun, you can look up the meanings of everyone’s names.

  1. Leo the Late Bloomer– Written by Robert Kraus Pictures by: Jose Aruego

Harper Collins: Reissue Edition   1999

Lexile Measure: 120

Ages: 3-8

USA Grades: Pre-K- Grade 2

Leo the Late Bloomer is the enduring story about a young tiger that is developmentally behind the other jungle animals. He couldn’t read, write, draw…

Naturally, his father is concerned, but his mother reassures him that Leo will blossom soon. Eventually, over time, Leo can do all the things the other animals can do. He was just a late bloomer.

Children will delight in the vibrant drawings and the amazing message that we all progress at our speed. I think this would be especially beneficial to children that have to overcome extra hurdles in their lives.

  1. Tacky the Penguin– Written by: Helen Lester Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

HMH Books for Young Readers, Reprint Edition (Aug. 17, 1990)

Lexile Measure: AD 810L                

Ages: 4-8

USA Grades: Pre-K- Grade 2

Tacky the Penguin is considered odd because he acts differently than the other penguins. He is boisterous and graceless, while the other penguins are rhythmic and refined.

One day, hunters encroach on the penguins’ home looking to capture them for their charming and graceful demeanor and sell them to the highest bidder for entertainment. Tacky’s unique behavior saves the day and earns him the respect of his peers.

Tacky illustrates how our differences are really our strengths.

  1. Arthur’s Eyes– Written and Illustrated by: Marc Brown

Little Brown Books for Young Readers       May 30, 1986

Lexile Measure: 260L

Ages: 5-8

USA Grades: Kindergarten-Grade 2

Arthur the Aardvark is encountering some impediments at school. He gets headaches when he reads, misses baskets in basketball, and no one wants to be his teammate.

Eventually, his parents bring Arthur to the eye doctor to get an evaluation. She concludes that Arthur requires glasses. Unfortunately, Arthur is teased mercilessly by his “friends” and classmates. Therefore, Arthur has a series of embarrassing situations when he “loses his glasses” and is sent to the principal’s office. The principal shows Arthur that there is no need to be ashamed of wearing glasses.

This book was written back in 1979. Although I think there is still some stigma to wearing glasses, it is becoming rarer because so many children need and wear glasses in today’s society. However, I still think the lesson about persevering and achieving goals even though you face obstacles is an important one.

I enjoy the Arthur series of books, and I appreciate how Marc Brown has updated the look and feel of many of his books to accommodate the changing times.

  1. Edward the Emu-Written by: Sheena Knowles & Illustrated by Rod Clement

HarperCollins: Reprinted Edition               April 4, 1998

Ages: 3-8

USA Grades: Pre-K – Grade 2

Poor Edward the Emu is not satisfied with being an emu. He lives at the zoo and believes the spectators think the other animals are more exciting because the families are usually gathered around the other animals’ exhibits.

Because of his misguided perception, Edward spends the day trying to emulate the other “more popular” animals at the zoo in vain. Readers can’t help but fall in love with Edward’s silly antics and delight in the humorous illustrations and rhymes.

Edward is genuinely an individual worth celebrating!  This book was initially published in Australia.

Ferdinand – Written by: Munro Leaf Drawings by Robert Lawson

* Now a Major Motion Picture

Viking Books for Young Readers: Library Binding Edition

(Jan. 1, 1936)

Lexile Measure: AD830L

Ages:3-5 years

USA Grades: Preschool-Kindergarten

Ferdinand is the classic story about a young bull who is different from the rest. Instead of developing his physical prowess for bullfighting, he is in the fields smelling the flowers.

One day, when the men from the bullfight are searching for bulls to fight, Ferdinand is confronted with an awkward situation. What will Ferdinand do?

Ferdinand features classic black and white illustrations with simple and effective storytelling text. Ferdinand is about being true to your authentic self. This book takes place in Spain.

Disclaimer: I read this book with a copyright of 1969. Personally, I am uncomfortable with how they describe how they coax bulls to fight. Please use your discretion when reading this to young children. They may have updated the book to make it more

  1. Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage to Be Who You Are Written By: Maria Dismondy Illustrations by Kim Shaw

Cardinal Rule Press:  Reprint       2017

Ages: 4-11

USA Grades: Kindergarten-Grade 5

Lucy has unique tastes in food. She loves spaghetti in a hot dog bun. Although most of Lucy’s peers are friendly towards her, Ralph is not. He calls her names and torments her.
Lucy’s theory is that Ralph thinks that “different is bad.” What will Lucy do when Ralph is in a bind?

Awards/Recognition(s):  Gold Mom’s Choice Award®, Award-Winning Author, One of Amazon’s #1 Bestselling books

  1. A Porcupine Named Fluffy– Written by: Helen Lester and Illustrations by: Lynn Munsinger

HMH Books for Young Readers

Oct. 30, 1989

Lexile Measure:  140L

Ages: 4-7

USA Grades: Pre-K – Second Grade

A Porcupine Named Fluffy is hilariously funny. Fluffy is a porcupine, and he more prickly than fluffy. Determined to live up to his name, Fluffy tries everything to become fluffier. He even covers himself in shaving cream to no avail.

One day, Fluffy meets a rhinoceros who thinks Fluffy’s name is hysterical. Get ready to laugh when you hear the rhinoceros’ name.

I would recommend this book! The illustrations are comical, and it is an adorable story.

  1. Chrysanthemum– By Kevin Henkes

Greenwillow Books         

Lexile Measure:  570

Ages: 4-8

USA Grades: Pre-K – Grade 2

Chrysanthemum is one of my favorite children’s books. This is the endearing story about an adorable little mouse which has an unusual name.

When Chrysanthemum attends school, she is embarrassed when her classmates tease her about her name, until one of her teachers comes to the rescue.

Awards/Recognition(s):  ALA Notable Children’s Book, Horn Book Fanfare, & NCTE Notable Children’s Trade Book in Language Arts

Math/Language Arts Activities 2: Pre-K-Grade 2 (modify as appropriate)


Henkes, Kevin. (1991). Chrysanthemum.  New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.

Have the correct number of pieces of paper for each child.  Make sure to have extras.  When I did this activity, I used half of a standardized piece of computer paper for each letter.  (This was a little too big. Try using ½ or 1 solid index card for each letter). After the lesson, we displayed them on the rug. (Again, too much space, instead you can use tables/whiteboards…)

Bonus: Before/During/After Reading Engagement

Before: Tell the students that their names are very important and a special part of who they are.  Over the year, the class will have already discussed their classmates’ names.  Explain that today the class is going to do a very special graphing activity after the story Chrysanthemum.  Ask the class if they know what a chrysanthemum is.  If they do not know, discuss it briefly.  There is a picture on the cover.  The teacher may ask the students what they notice about Chrysanthemum’s name.  (It starts with the letter “C.”  Some other students may also have names that also start with the letter “C.”  They may also notice that she has 13 letters in her name.)

During: Point out the other names.  Predict what will happen next about midway through the story.

After: The students will be given individual pieces of paper.  They will write one letter on each piece of paper.  (Make sure each child has enough pieces.)  The teacher will demonstrate.  Once the students finish, the class will look at groups of names five/ six names lined up underneath each other like a bar graph.  The student will make observations, and answer questions.

    • “How many letters in your name?” Do this for every child.  Have the students count together.

    • “Who has the longest name?” Let the children reply.

    • “Who has the shortest name?” Let the children reply.

    • “Are there any ties?” Let the children reply.

    • “Are there any names that start with the same letters?” Let the children reply. If so, how many?

    • Allow the students to make any additional observations.

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How do you celebrate individuality? What books do you use to celebrate individuality?




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