Book Club: Building Bridges

Read and discuss books about building an understanding and appreciation for friends who come from a different background.
Ages 5-14 / 30
min Activity
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  • Read books about appreciating their differences by practicing skills like cultural humility, perspective taking, and empathy‍
  • Share their insights and personal experiences during a follow-up discussion

Supporting Research

Research shows that reading narratives (nonfiction and fiction) supports students in developing empathy, perspective taking, and social competence by providing them with the opportunity to simulate characters’ worlds, emotions, and behaviors. Educators should encourage students to practice perspective taking and emotion recognition to understand and connect with the experiences described in the texts, and consider actions they can take to foster more kindness and inclusivity in their communities.

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.


Activity Partners

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Ages 5-7 years old: The Sandwich Shop

Reflect on how we can make new friends who are different from us after reading the book "The Sandwich Swap" by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah and Kelly DiPucchio, and illustrated by Tricia Tusa.

Discussion questions: 

  • How would you describe Salma and Lily? In what ways are they different from each other? 
  • Why do Salma and Lily get into a fight? How do they feel when the other person says unkind things about their lunch? 
  • How do Salma and Lily fix their friendship? What did they learn? 
  • Do you have a friend who is different from you? Maybe they are from a different country, speak another language, or have a different skin color. How did you become friends with each other? What do you share in common, and how are you different? 
  • Why is it important to have friends who are different from us?

Ages 8-10 years old: A New Kind of Wild

Reflect on how we can make new friends who are different from us after reading the book "A New Kind of Wild" by Zara González Hoang.

Discussion questions: 

  • Why is Ren unhappy when he moves to a new city? How does Ava help him see a “new kind of wild”? 
  • Where would you take Ren to help him see “a new kind of wild” in our city? What does this place show about your culture and experiences? 
  • How do Ren and Ava practice “cultural humility”, which is when we are interested in learning about each other’s culture and experiences? How does this help them understand each other better? 
  • Is there a way you practice cultural humility in your own life, or want to practice it in the future? Why is this an important skill to practice? 

Ages 11-14 years old: Harbor Me

Reflect on how we can make new friends who are different from us after reading the book "Harbor Me" by Jacqueline Woodson.

Discussion questions:

  • How do the six main characters feel about their discussion circle at the beginning of the book? What makes each character feel more comfortable sharing their background and personal stories with the group?
  • What are the different issues that come up during the students’ conversations? 
  • Do you relate to any of the challenges brought up during their discussions? Which character do you connect with the most, and why?
  • What are the similarities and differences between the six main characters in the book? How do they find ways to connect with each other across these differences?
  • Have you ever built a relationship or had a personal discussion about your life with someone different from you? How did this experience make you feel? What helped you build a connection?
  • What did you learn about some of the challenges currently being highlighted in the media through the characters’ discussions?

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.