Creating Inclusive Communities Through Children’s Books

by Alexandra Penfold

One of my favorite things about books is how they take us places and let us experience things that are familiar or quite different from our own lives. As creators, Suzanne Kaufman and I strive to create stories that encourage conversation. Our books give parents and children a place to reflect and talk about questions like what it means to be welcoming, how we can navigate big feelings as kids (and adults!), and what it means to be part of a community. We hope that by showing the beautiful, diverse world we live in, we can encourage kindness and inclusion and help young readers grow in empathy and resilience.

The book All Are Welcome was inspired by a poster that my friend Suzanne Kaufman created for her children’s school in Seattle. Suzanne’s poster had adorable smiling children from different backgrounds to reflect the school’s diverse community with the simple message “All Are Welcome” on the bottom. The sign immediately resonated with me. When I wrote All Are Welcome, my child attended a school where over 80% of the student body spoke another language at home, and over 20 different languages were spoken in the school community. I witnessed how the teachers and administrators created a welcoming community that saw, valued, and celebrated every student. I wanted to write something to help all students see themselves and feel like welcome and beloved members of their school community.

As a parent, I try to help my children develop empathy for themselves and others by naming and understanding their good and not-so-good feelings. Our book, Big Feelings, shows readers how to embrace their different emotions and find a new perspective in the process. Suzanne fills the pages of our books with a rich visual narrative so readers can follow any of the characters throughout the story and see their expressions and reactions when they face challenges and setbacks.

The spirit of community and being a neighbor are at the heart of Suzanne and my latest book, All Are Neighbors, which shows the cast of All Are Welcome and Big Feelings at home in their greater community. Throughout the pages of the story, the children welcome a new child to the neighborhood, and readers can see how people from different backgrounds help and support each other.

One of the greatest gifts we can give children is the opportunity to see the good in themselves and others. As part of that mission, each of our book jackets has a poster on the back with messages that remind us of our connectivity to each other.


We hope that as readers find themselves in the pages of these books, they feel inspired to one day write and share their own beautiful and unique stories.