It's Okay to be Different

Written By: Todd Parr

Before Reading

Explore Illustrations

Enjoy looking at the cover and illustrations with your child.  Hold up the cover and ask what s/he thinks is inside this story by asking:

What do you notice on the cover?

What do you like best about this cover?  Least?

How are the characters on the cover different from each other?

How are the characters on the cover the same?

Share a time with your child when you felt different from the people around you. Describe how you felt and the choices you made to act, react, or speak.  Then ask your child when s/he has felt the same or different than others.  With younger children, it can be easier to provide specific settings.  For example, "When you are at school, eating lunch, do you have the same food as your friends?"  Go as deep or as simple as you know your child can understand!

As You Read

The bold colors and zany scenes in "It's Okay To Be Different" lend themselves to endless fun readings with your child!  The first time you read the story, try reading all the way through and letting your child enjoy it in its entirety.  On subsequent readings, help your child recognize how special each individual in the book is by exploring the pages of the book and talking about the characters as separate from the labels on each page. Begin by asking your child to think about a time when s/he has felt the “difference” that one of the characters has or if s/he  knows someone with the “difference” that one of the characters has.  For example, on the page with a woman and her seeing-eye dog, after reading, “It’s okay to need some help,” ask your child:

What does it mean to be blind?  What do you think this person is like? {Remind your child that this person is more than “blind” and has thoughts, feelings, friends, and family who love and accept her.}

Do you know anyone who has a service dog, or have you ever seen one?

Do you have questions about his / her service dog?

Do you think everyone is always kind to this person?

How do you think s/he would feel if people stare or say unkind things about her?

Has anyone ever been unkind to you?  How do that make you feel?  What did or would you say if someone were unkind to you?

For younger children, it may be more helpful to give examples of your own experiences. In addition to helping open up conversations about differences and similarities with your child, this book can be a time for fun and engagement with your child!  Todd Parr shows so many different kinds of people and zany situations.  Remember that your reading style and getting excited is critical to your child's experience with this book.  Use your silliest voice for the scenes like being okay to be from a different place or eat macaroni in the bathtub!

After Reading

Summarize and Interpret:

Ask your child the following questions after finishing to explore his/her understanding of the book:

What was your favorite part of the story?  Why?

Which picture is your favorite? Why?

List some friends and family members.  How are they the same as you?  How are they different than you?

There are many funny scenes in this book.  Encourage your child to use his/her creative muscles to come up with many more, "It's Okay..." scenarios!  You can start, and then go back and forth with both serious and silly examples.

Finally, go to a mirror with your child and turn to the blue page with the pink elephant. After reading the text, “It’s okay to have a different nose,” examine your nose and your child's nose. Outline the shape of both of your noses on the mirror with a dry erase marker. Examine all of the nose differences you find in the mirror. Who has the longer nose? Who has the wider nose? Who has a bridge? Who does not have a bridge? Talk to your child about how facial features, or any physical features, are visible but do not make us who we are on the inside.

Activity: Self Portrait Doubles

Inspired by Mommy Labs

Supplies: Two lengths of paper; pencils; crayons; yarn for hair; a ruler; safety scissors; various papers for clothes; adhesive


Create two life-sized self-portraits together! Start by telling your child that you are going to make a self-portrait and what that means.

  1. Measure your child's height and trace an outline of his/her body. Then, help your child add his/her face, hair, clothes, and shoes to their self-portrait. As you work together, talk about how some people are tall and others are short, some have straight hair and others have curly hair, some wear glasses and other do not. Be willing to answer questions for your child about differences, always using positive terms such as unique, beautiful, and variety.  
  2. Once your child has completed this portrait, go through all of the steps again.  This time, however, make sure that s/he uses different, silly colors or materials for everything.  Make the hair pink instead of black, for example.  In general, go for crazier colors and patterns.  Then, place both portraits side by side.  Ask your child to tell you all about or point to  what is different.  Then, remind him/her that these are still self-portraits, both supposed to be your child.  Ask what is different on the inside?  Anything?  No!  Make the point that your inside is what matters, and what makes you the most unique.