Favorite Multicultural Books for Kids
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Reading is one of the best ways to connect with your kids while having fun. Not only that, but multicultural books can also help kids grow and connect with others who are different from themselves.
It’s important to include multicultural books in your children’s library to promote empathy, understanding, open-mindedness, and curiosity. Today we’ll dive into our favorite multicultural books for kids, as well as why they are so important to incorporate.
What are multicultural books?
Multicultural books include a wide array of characters. These characters may have different religions, birthplaces, races and ethnicities, opinions, and beliefs. Multicultural books can come in all shapes in sizes – just like their characters! Another important aspect of our favorite multicultural books for kids is that they represent a minority point of view (POV). This POV is not usually seen in popular forms of media, making it evasive if not sought out directly. They can include special needs or other disabilities, like anxiety or ADHD. All of these books share ideas that kids will find both engaging and informative. Whether you’re choosing a short story or a chapter book, reading multicultural books to your kids is sure to spark their interest. While learning about others is ideal, parents can also choose some books whose characters resemble their own family’s culture. Both are great options to incorporate into reading time with your kids.
Why are multicultural books important for kids?
We live in a world that is packed with variety and differences. Parents should provide their kids with literature that reflects the culturally diverse world we live in. This will not only show your child what the world is like, but better prepare them to live and prosper in it. Multicultural books foster empathy and unity among children. We want our children to be connected, growing both independently and together. These books promote intercultural understanding, allowing your child to connect more with others. This goes not only for kids in different ethnic groups, but also for those who may have physical, mental, or emotional impairments, too.
These books will also help kids better understand their own identity and culture, especially if coming from an under-represented group. Multicultural books are an important part of developing a child’s self-confidence and sense of representation amongst a larger majority.
How do multicultural books help kids?
We’ve commented on multicultural books’ ability to grow empathy among children. While this could help your kids develop new friendships, these are important for more than just fun. Multicultural friendships open up opportunities for kids to both learn from and gain new experiences. Kids who read multicultural books will connect more not only with others but with themselves. Multicultural books allow for identity formation, learning about one’s own culture and how it intertwines with others. These kids will look critically at the world, developing their global awareness across contexts. Through self-development with multicultural books, kids can create both a sense of belonging and of connection to others as they grow and become future leaders in our society. Through this empathy and understanding, multicultural books can help shape your kids into the successful adults they are sure to become.
Multicultural book recommendations
There is a vast selection of books that display diversity. Our favorite multicultural books for kids are those that show character diversity, forge relationships across barriers, represent underprivileged or minority groups, and display empathy and understanding.
Our top recommendations can be found below.
- Black Heroes: This book includes fascinating biographies of extraordinary black heroes throughout time. From Egyptian rulers to famous musicians, your kids will discover multiple new worlds and the individuals who shaped them.
- Whoever You Are: Stunning illustrations will take you and your family to visit children across the world. While they speak different languages and live in different places, your kids will soon see that they share more than meets the eye.
- Dream Big: This tale takes animal characters and shows the power of creative and transformative thinking. No matter the barriers they face, the animals find ways to reach their dreams and make big, positive changes in their lives.
- Curls: This beautiful book is an ode to African American and black girls. It celebrates four friends and the joys of their hair – from curls to braids, and all beautiful.
- All Are Welcome: This multicultural book reflects a school full of diversity. Your kids will feel as if they’re walking down the hallway, enjoying and learning from the differences between all of the students.
- Can You Say Peace: This short story uses colorful pictures to take kids around the world. On their journey, they will learn about how to say and display “peace” from one country and culture to the next.
How can parents model multicultural books?
While it’s important to talk the talk, parents must also walk the walk when it comes to multiculturalism. It’s not enough just to read about empathy and understanding around diversity; this is something that must be lived!
Parents can model the messages of multicultural books through their daily actions. Be aware of your comments about groups that differ from yours. Are you empowering and understanding, or critical and distant? You should also develop your own family’s identity with your children and explore your cultural background. Recognize aspects that all people share and point them out to your children. Whenever possible, encourage diverse relationships and ask questions to become better-informed about people who are different from you. Your kids are sure to look up to a parent who fosters multiculturalism in their own daily life.
Which multicultural book is the right one for my child?
There is no one answer to this question. Your child will like what they like. However, if you want to ensure your children are reading a broad spectrum of books and being exposed to all sorts of different characters then we recommend reading as many as possible. One of the best parts about increasing representation in literature is that it means there are so many more stories to be told! We can only read so many books about the same types of characters and we have for a significant chunk of history. Now books are finally less exclusive and that means your child has a whole new range of opportunities.
As mentioned previously, an important reason to read multicultural books to your children is that it opens their minds and ultimately, their world. If a kid only sees a few types of characters in the literature that they read every day then it shouldn’t be surprising when they develop biases and are drawn to those types of characters – it’s what they’re familiar and comfortable with. So, why not cultivate a world where your child is familiar and comfortable with all sorts of characters from all sorts of backgrounds? You don’t have to choose one right book for your children, you can choose many. Try reading books with characters that don’t resemble your children or your family on one day and then one that is a bit more familiar on another day. The more you normalize the experience of difference within your children, the more comfortable they will be with it. That comfort will make them more empathetic, open-minded, and good people.
Can I still read my old favorites to my kids if they aren’t considered multicultural books?
We’re sure you remember reading some of the “classics” throughout your education. Whether it was in preschool, kindergarten, middle school, or high school, there was an overwhelming lack of representation in literature for far too long. Only seeing certain types of people in the books we read, the films we watch, and the stores we shop at tends to cultivate prejudice. This prejudice may not be starkly apparent but even if it is discreet, it can lead to discrimination and unjust behavior. For this reason, times have changed and will continue to.
You will notice that some of those “classic” books you read in kindergarten may not be read to your children at school anymore. This doesn’t mean you can’t read your old favorites to your kids; it simply means you should ensure you are not giving bias to certain types of books with a limited range of characters. We live in a beautifully diverse world and literature and media should represent that through words and illustrations of characters from all walks of life. And the good news is that there are ample books out there that do this. So, you can still read your kids those books you grew up with because they aren’t inherently discriminatory. However, exclusively reading those types of books is discriminatory. So, mix it up! Read your children that one your dad always reads at bedtime one night and then try out some of the options on our suggestions list on another. All of these books will bring something unique to your child’s reading experience.
Is there a right age to begin reading multicultural books to my child?
When it comes to the ideal age to begin reading multicultural books to your children, we say the sooner, the better! Your baby is a blank slate and what you choose to expose them to will begin to influence how they see the world. So, why not show them everything the world has to offer?
On the other hand, however, if your children have been reading for years and you are suddenly panicked that they haven’t read many multicultural books then get them started on them now. We are never too old to learn and even if your children grew up reading books about a limited number of character types, that doesn’t mean things can’t change.
Start early and if it is no longer early, then start now. Life is filled with learning experiences where the world we thought we knew changes before our eyes. Allow your children to learn and see and read about how wonderfully diverse this world is so that they do not fear difference or unfamiliarity.
Will my child read multicultural books at school?
Most schools have changed their curriculums to incorporate multicultural books for all the reasons we have discussed. If you notice that your child’s class reading list is missing some representation or seems to be biased towards certain stories in characters, then we recommend speaking up. The world is diverse and sometimes people can overlook important learning opportunities for children. If you spot this in your children’s class, then suggest some new reading material or bring it up with their teacher. Oftentimes these things are not intentional but that does not mean they should not be addressed. So, pipe up and diversify your children’s learning experience and ultimately, open their minds.
If you’re still wondering about the benefits of reading multicultural books to your children, then please check out the following resources.
Now that you know why reading multicultural books to your children is so important and you have a few suggestions of multicultural books to explore, let’s get learning!
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Our favorite multicultural books for kids are sure to develop empathy, enhance education, and provide fun!