Reducing disparities in learning outcomes, affecting learners from disadvantaged backgrounds and supporting pre- and in-service teachers so that they can teach diversified groups of learners are essential priorities both for Erasmus+ and for the IDPBC consortium. By equipping practitioners with the necessary tools, attitudes and competences to manage and work with diversity, positive interactions between learners from diverse backgrounds are encouraged. Difference becomes a positive source for learning rather than the cause for negative competition and prejudice, and ultimately the situation of young people with fewer opportunities is improved.
The IDPBC project aims to affect positively pre-primary and primary school pupils who feel or are considered to be ‘different’ from the majority. These categories include: migrant children, Roma and children from cultural, political and religious minority backgrounds, children at risk, children in care, children with same sex parents, adopted children and displaced children, among others. Finally, since learning to function in diverse environments and reflecting on one’s identity and stances towards difference is essential for every child growing up in a contemporary society, all pre-primary and primary school pupils in Europe and elsewhere can potentially benefit from the IDPBC stories, activities and educational approaches.
Picture books have been proved to be extremely valuable educational tools, bringing multiple learning benefits to diverse groups of learners. Educationalists have repeatedly shown how reading visual narratives can enhance children’s understanding of their own identities and celebrating difference. Judith Graham (1990: 27) points out that children read illustrations in much the same way as they interpret behaviour in real life, gaining insights into the ways people from different cultures live and interact. Marcia Baghban (2007: 71) asserts that picture books can help migrant children negotiate the challenges they face, such as being different, coping with great and small changes, responding to one’s name, learning a new language, relating to previous generations and traditions, maintaining ties with distant relatives, and visiting their homelands.
IDPBC researchers have found that introducing educators to compilations of carefully selected, high quality picture books that are well-suited for specific educational purposes can be quite beneficial for both educators and learners. Developing tested, evidence-based approaches and curricula to accompany the compiled picture books is even more beneficial, as teachers are supported in their planning and teaching and learners gain access to expertly designed materials and activities. Most importantly, training educators to identify, design and utilize relevant resources guarantees the project's sustainability.