The holiday season is upon us. Of course, thoughts go to food, gatherings with family and friends, giving, and gratitude. But it is also a time when we share stories – holiday stories, family stories, and just plain good stories.
However, we often share stories that are familiar to us. But the holidays provide us with an excellent opportunity to share diverse stories.
Why Diverse Stories?
The Anti-Defamation League says this about the importance of children’s multicultural books:
“Children’s books, at their best, invite children to use their imaginations, expand their vocabularies and gain a better understanding of themselves and others. And, if the titles reflect the diverse groups of people in the world around them, children can learn to respect not only their own cultural groups, but also the cultural groups of others.
“Children’s literature serves as both a mirror to children and as a window to the world around them by showing people from diverse groups playing and working together, solving problems and overcoming obstacles. At its best, multicultural children’s literature helps children understand that despite our many differences, all people share common feelings and aspirations. Those feelings can include love, sadness, fear and the desire for fairness and justice.”
In addition, the article “5 Benefits of Teaching Classroom Diversity” from Kickboard for Schools (a company that creates professional development for educators) listed these benefits:
Knowing these myriad benefits for my students, I built a library collection focused on multiculturalism as a school librarian. Unfortunately, in the early 2000s, diverse books were hard to find. Now, the number of diverse books has increased (not nearly enough), but these books’ quality and authenticity is often lacking.
Part of this is because many publishers do not have diversity in their editorial teams. A book that is not authentic can often lead to stereotyping, so it is imperative to vet the books we give to children.
So How Do You Know If You Are Getting Books That Contain Accurate Portrayals?
Luckily, there are resources to help us find appropriate books, including book lists from reliable sources such as Cooperative Children’s Book Center, Children’s Book Council, We Need Diverse Books, and the Diverse Book Finder. In addition, Pragmatic Mom, a diverse children’s book blogger, has kids book lists for these groups: African Americans, Arab Americans, Asian Americans (Asian American, Korean American, Japanese American, Chinese American, and South Asia American), Hispanic Americans, Jewish, LGBTQIA, and Native Americans.
Also, certain publishers are known for their quality diverse books, such as Lee & Low, August House, Groundwood/House of Anansi, Mango and Marigold Press, Oyate, Lantana Publishing, and Barefoot Books.
When you share diverse stories with your grandchildren, you help them understand that even if people have different beliefs, traditions, and histories, we all share the human experience. So, read a diverse book with your grandchildren this holiday season and model how to be good global citizens.
Below are some recommendations for diverse books that relate to holidays celebrated by cultures and religions from around the globe.
Thanku: Poems of Gratitude
Gratitude should be practiced all year round. A diverse group of writers has shared what they are grateful for in their lives. Each entry is in a unique poetic form. This book provides an excellent springboard for discussions of gratitude with your grandchildren. Suited for kids 6-9.
*A portion of the sales goes to the non-profit “We Need Diverse Books” mentioned above.
Joy To the World
This joyfully and cheerfully illustrated book features Christmas traditions from Ethiopia, Colombia, Australia, Italy, Serbia, Mexico, India, Iceland, Egypt, Argentina, Philippines, Lebanon, and Canada. The rhyming text and shimmering gold ink will engage younger kids, while the endnotes detailing the traditions will keep older kids interested.
Embrace diversity by helping your grandchildren choose Christmas traditions from other countries to include in your celebrations this year. Perfect holiday gift book for ages 4-10 years!
New Year’s Traditions
Every Month Is a New Year
In the U.S., New Year’s occurs on January 1. However, this is not the beginning of the new year for many others around the world. This multi-layered book features poetry and colorful collage illustrations describing these other new year celebrations.
In addition, endnotes contain historical and cultural details about the global New Year’s traditions that appear in the book. A fun way to begin diversity discussion, including exploring calendars used in other cultures. Best for ages 6-12.
Global Celebrations Throughout the Year
Year Full of Celebrations and Festivals: Over 90 fun and fabulous festivals from around the world
This extensive compendium includes religious and cultural holidays, national holidays, commemorating historical events, and festivals for fun. Details and entertaining facts are provided for each celebration. The cheerful and colorful illustrations by Chris Corr provide an engaging backdrop for this journey around the world. The book features people with a wide range of skin tones. And the traditional dress and architectural details from various cultures are included in the illustrations.
You can spend hours delving into this book with your grandchildren. It provides numerous opportunities to discuss diversity, including various customs, clothes, food, and beliefs. In addition, the book, organized by season, allows you to add a science lesson to the mix. It’s great for ages 6-9.
A Year Full of Stories: 52 Folktales and Legends from Around the World
This book provides a folktale, legend, or myth for each week of the year. Each story is associated with a religious holiday, festival, cultural event, or changing seasons. Organized into 12 chapters, one for each month of the year, this book gives you a year’s worth of stories to share with your grandchildren.
Make a weekly storytime date with your grandchildren, in person or virtually, to share a story from this enriching global collection. Illustrations by Chris Corr are colorful, detailed, and engaging. You will want to keep this book handy whenever you need a good story to share with your grandchildren. Perfect for ages 6-9.
Let’s Celebrate! Special Days Around the World
This joyful book weds colorful, warm, and engaging illustrations with rhythmic, rhyming words to produce an outstanding contribution to diverse children’s literature. The reader travels worldwide to celebrate holidays from Japan, China, New Zealand, Peru, Brazil, Sweden, Iran, Nigeria, Russia, Egypt, Mexico, India, and the United States.
The text is sparse, but the illustrations and the endnotes provide details to satisfy curious minds. Includes pronunciations of the holidays and a calendar showing how these holidays are dispersed throughout the year. This book is perfect when you are reading to grandchildren of different ages. The book is suitable for ages 4-10.
How do you engage your grandchildren around the holidays? Have you discussed diverse ways that people around the world celebrate? Have you read any specific books that discuss diversity? Which ones are your favorites?