It’s Anti-Bullying Week, which is a great opportunity to emphasise the collective responsibility of students to end bullying and respect each other. With powerful illustrations and encouraging messages, picture books are an ideal way to help children understand and celebrate their differences.

Strong friendships can be a protective factor for children experiencing bullying, but children with special educational needs and disabilities may experience social isolation. Teachers and teaching assistants have the opportunity to make a positive change for all students.

Our SEN lead, Olivia, has picked out five books promoting inclusivity: excellent educational tools to bridge the gap between students with SEND and students with no known needs. This way we can take a step forward together towards a better understanding of special educational needs and disabilities.

1. A friend like Simon, Kate Gaynor

When a child with autism joins a mainstream school, other children can find it difficult to understand and cope with a student they see as ‘different’ to them. Educators have used this book in lower primary PSHE classes to promote empathy in the classroom. This story encourages children to be mindful and patient of their differences and to appreciate the positive contribution a child with autism can make to a group.

2. Special People, Special Ways, Arlene Maguire

“Share a joke or a dream. Make someone feel good. We need laughter, hugs, and to be understood... Though we seem different, inside we’re the same. Our hearts are for caring, no matter our name.” Memorable rhymes combine with gorgeous, colourful watercolour illustrations to take the reader on a journey of discovery, tolerance and inclusivity. Teachers and parents love to read this book to portray positive images of children with a range of needs and disabilities.

3. We’ll Paint the Octopus Red, Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

This heartwarming tale begins with six-year-old Emma awaiting the birth of her brother, Isaac. Emma imagines all the fun things they can do as a pair, and after Isaac is born with Down Syndrome, Emma begins to wonder if her plans with him will have to change. After encouragement from her father, Emma finds that with a little help, and some extra patience, there’s nothing Isaac won’t be able to do as a member of the family.

4. Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes, Jennifer Elder

Captivating stories for introducing 8-to-12-year-olds to famous and inspirational figures from the world of science, art, maths, literature, philosophy and comedy. Narrated by Quinn, a young boy with Asperger's Syndrome, the book vividly shows its readers the achievements of heroes from history with autism, from Albert Einstein to Dian Fossey and Julia Bowman Robinson, among others. While they all excel in their different fields, they are united by finding it difficult to fit in. Just like Quinn.

5. My Brother Charlie, Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete

We meet a family whose oldest son, Charlie, teaches them important lessons about togetherness, hope, tolerance, and love. Callie is proud of her brother Charlie. He's good at so many things, swimming, playing the piano, running fast. But sometimes Charlie gets quiet. His words get locked inside him, and he seems far away. Then, when Callie and Charlie start to play, Charlie is back to laughing, holding hands, having fun. Charlie is like any other boy, and he has autism.