Books can be a gateway to a new and magical world for children. They can inspire, teach and broaden their horizons and perspectives – creating awareness and exposure to different cultures and ethnicities.
In an effort to raise awareness for kids’ books that celebrate cultural diversity, Valerie Budayr of Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom created Multicultural Children’s Book Day, which takes each year place in January.
The co-creators say they want this day to promote exposure and awareness of these books and getting more of them in libraries and classrooms.
Cynthia Eagan, children’s librarian at the Detroit Public Library, says kids should be exposed to different cultures, especially those living in Michigan, because the state – and the city of Detroit – is so diverse. And, she adds, “books can be a good icebreaker” for doing just that.
“It’s pertinent still to the raising of children,” Eagan says. “I think books can be a good medium where you can talk about things to kids.”
Eagan suggests talking to children before or after a book with diversity, so children can better understand the characters and the culture.
These books can also be used for understanding other children – whether they meet on the playground or in the classroom.
Janet Batchelder, manager at children’s library at the Detroit Public Library, says Multicultural Children’s Book Day sounds like a “wonderful celebration of books and diversity.”
“The benefits to reading or listening to multicultural books is that children can experience what other children experience,” says Batchelder. “Sometimes the experience is different and sometimes it is the same.”
Batchelder suggest that parents look into different multicultural book lists and publishers like Children’s Book Council and Goodreads.com that publish an annual multicultural book list. Parents can browse by age group or choose specific ethnicities, countries or continents.
If you’re interested in branching out and exposing your kids to different cultures, check out these nine multicultural children’s books.
- Ages: 4-7
- Price: $9
A photographic tribute to the best attractions in Poland from A-Z.
- Ages: preschool
- Price: $8
A multi-ethnic story-poem book about three babies receiving love and affection from their parents and grandparents.
- Ages: 8-12
- Price: $14
A diary of Eliza, a young slave girl from Virginia, who records her journey to freedom on the Underground Railroad with Harriet Tubman.
- Ages: 10-plus
- Price: $9
Neftali is a shy child, ridiculed by his father, who follows mysterious voices that take him on a journey. The Dreamer is a fictionalized biography of Pablo Neruda, a Noble Prize-winning Chilean poet.
- Ages: 4-8
- Price: $14.13
An African tale from Zimbabwe about Mufaro’s daughters, who are invited to meet the king, who is looking for a worthy wife. Nyasha is kind and considerate while her sister, Manyara, is selfish and bad tempered, although only her father Mufaro knows.
- Ages: 5-plus
- Price: $7.19
An Iraqi version of the Cinderella story. Maha, who struggles with life with her stepmother and stepsister, gets help from a fish she saved by releasing him back into the water.
- Ages: 6-plus
- Price: $15.25
A bilingual story of a young girl, who loves playing the drums, growing up in a Cuban-American neighborhood where he love of the instrument is frowned upon.
- Ages: 6-8
- Price: $14.60
A true story of how 14-year-old William Kamkwamba made a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps by spending his days in the library learning about how to bring electricity to his drought stricken Malawi village.
- Ages: 4-8
- Price: $9.50
After decades of religious oppression by communist rule, Drita, a young Albanian girl, finds Christianity with the help of teachings by missionaries and her grandparents. She eventually is able to worship openly and freely.
This post was originally published in 2014 and is updated.