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Recommended Reading

Beyond Differences, in partnership with Book Passage of Corte Madera and San Francisco, is proud to present this recommended reading list to you - parents and young adults alike. Meeting and experiencing "new friends" through literature -- not to mention finding common ground with others who are going through similar things -- can be a powerful way to find our own best selves.

We celebrate every elementary, middle and high school student who commits to Be The One to accept and include others! Thank you, student leaders, teachers and parents who support Beyond Differences and our children's courage.

And with deepest thanks to Leslie Berkler who, when asked if she would mind culling this list for us, replied "My passion is books that contain characters who represent all voices...."

George, by Alex Gino, Ages 8-12

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl. George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part...because she's a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, by Teresa Toten, Ages 12 up

Adam not only is trying to understand his OCD while trying to balance his relationship with his divorced parents, but he's also trying to navigate through the issues that teenagers normally face, namely the perils of young love.

Mosquitoland, by David Arnold, Ages 13-17

After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the wastelands of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland. So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way, including Walt, a developmentally delayed teen who brings out her better angels.

Every Last Word, by Tamara Ireland Stone, Ages 13-17

Consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can't turn off, a girl coping with Purely-Obsessional OCD learns to accept herself and take control of her life through her experiences in poetry club.

All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven, Ages 14 up

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister s recent death. When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom.

Finding Audrey, by Sophie Kinsella, Ages 12 up

An anxiety disorder disrupts 14-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

Challenger Deep, by Neal Shusterman, Ages 13 up

A brilliant teenage boy struggles with schizophrenia.

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, by Christine Baldacchino, Ages 4-8

A young boy faces adversity from classmates when he wears an orange dress at school.

The Year of Billy Miller, by Kevin Henkes, Ages 7-10

“It was the first day of second grade and Billy Miller was worried. He was worried he wouldn’t be smart enough for school this year.” So begins this Newbery Honor title from a rarely addressed child’s insecurity about meeting expectations of those around him. Also lovely in its development of family relationships and bonding.

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, by Dana Alison Levy, Ages 8-12

This seriously funny, modern family adventure follows a family with two fathers and four adopted boys of a variety of races, as they make their way through a school year, kindergarten through sixth grade, and deal with a grumpy new neighbor.

Ruby on the Outside, by Nora Raleigh Baskin, Ages 9-12

Eleven-year-old Ruby Danes has a real best friend for the first time ever, but agonizes over whether or not to tell her a secret she has never shared with anyone--that her mother has been in prison since Ruby was five--and over whether to express her anger to her mother.

The Thing about Luck, by Cynthia Kadohata, Ages 8-12

Summer explains that her little brother Jaz doesn’t have to have manners because he “has issues.” This multi-generational story illustrates a young girl managing her immigrant grandparents, caring for Jaz and struggling with peer pressures.

Rules, by Cynthia Lord, Ages 8-12

Still a favorite, this 2008 release features 12-year-old Catherine who has always supported her autistic brother as she befriends someone new with a different disability.

Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin, Ages 8-12

Beautiful story about a young girl on the spectrum who is obsessed with homonyms and challenged by living with a father who does not understand her.

National Programs

Know Your Classmates

Our innovative national programs have inspired a cultural and behavioral shift at middle schools and high schools across the country. Join our movement to end social isolation by bringing one or all of these programs to your school.

Know Your Classmates is designed to explore middle school youth's identity and belonging, understand traditions, and recognize stereotypes. Multi-cultural and multi-faith backgrounds are common in today's schools and Know Your Classmates is speaking honestly with children about their feelings and experiences with one another. Know Your Classmates Day is Friday, October 23, 2020!

No One Eats Alone

No One Eats Alone™ teaches everyone how to make friends at lunch, often the most difficult part of the school day. Created and organized by students, this is our most popular program where schools in all 50 United States participate! National No One Eats Alone Day is Friday, February 12, 2021.

Be Kind Online

Be Kind Online is a powerful engagement program for middle school youth, their teachers and families. Focused on creating inclusive communities online, particularly learning to respond to digital gossip to reduce social isolation, Be Kind Online Day is May 14, 2021.

All of our programs encourage taking the pledge to never exclude others, reaching out to someone new, and spreading the word that inclusion is cool!