I realize that everyone is in summer bliss at the moment, but depending on where you live, school could be right around the corner. The school that my kids go to begins on August 14th, so teachers are gearing up for students to be coming in. While the news often focuses on all of the things that divide us as a nation, there are still people working hard to show that we do better together. One book that highlights this perfectly, and would also make a great first day of school read-aloud, is All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman.
The messages behind this book is that everyone is special, diversity should be celebrated, and that we welcome everyone with open arms. What makes it so perfect for the start of school is that there are lots of fears at the beginning of school. When you know that you are “different” in some manner, the fears are even larger. All Are Welcome takes place at the start of a school year and explains that no matter what your differences are, where you came from, or what you eat, everyone is welcome. The book is a wonderful collage of cultures. It also can help release some of the fears about making friends at a new place, as everyone in this book comes from a different background, yet become good friends.
This book is definitely aimed at pre-k through 2nd grade audience. The children represented look like 1st or 2nd graders and I couldn’t see it being used for older kids as much. It features simple rhymes and repeats the phrase “all are welcome here” on nearly every page. As an adult, I appreciate it for the way it encourages everyone to look past how others look to see what is inside them.
My absolute favorite spread is the one below. As it says, “Our strength is diversity. A shelter from adversity.” The simplicity of the image makes it extra powerful and would be a wonderful framed image. The next page shows how we all can learn from other. We share during school projects and, to a lesser extent, we share every day when we just take pride in our heritage.
The book was created by Alexandra Penfold after she saw a poster that Suzanne Kaufman had created to welcome all of the students to their school. The school not only protects diversity and community, but they celebrate it. We could all take a big lesson from this book. If we can show our children, the next generation, that those who are different from us are actually just like us, maybe we could find the way to lessen the hatred and fear that is out there.