Finding books that open a child’s mind to the larger world around them has always been important to me. For a long time, I brought books like that into our lives without even really thinking about doing it. Then, 5 years ago, I became a part of a blogging movement called Multicutural Children’s Book Day, because I came to realize that not many children had the benefit of a crazy mom like me bringing such a wide variety of book into the home. This year, in addition to being a co-host of the online event, I am working with my daughters’ school to bring Multicultural Children’s Book Day alive for everyone.
Multicultural books have been important to me because my family is not the norm. Although we are white, we are also Jewish, and raising children in the rural south while being Jewish can be a challenge. I try to make being Jewish a source of pride for my children and part of how I do that is through tons of wonderful books that help them realize that Jews are a vibrant community, even though we are such a small minority. We make being Jewish fun and part of that comes through a wealth of really great literature. For us, PJ Library has helped immensely in revitalizing the world of Jewish children’s literature.
But a larger understanding of the world around you is unfortunately not as widespread as I imagine it to be in my rose-colored mind. There are still too many people in this country who only know about other races and cultures through things they hear on tv. Who have preconceived notions of what a Jew, Muslim or Hindu person might be like. That’s where multicultural children’s book day comes in.
“Through each multicultural book a child reads, it creates a new level of understanding and empathy. When we can see through the eyes of another, when we can share a loved book with a friend regardless of religion, culture, race etc, we create a sense of belonging not only in our classrooms and homes but more importantly in our communities. The world outside our window becomes ours to shape and create.” Valarie Budayr (MCBD Co-Founder)
I have long wanted to somehow bring this event to a local school, but an off-hand comment from a child at the school my girls go to made me realize that I had to get up and bring action to my thoughts. What is amazing, is that there are such wonderful books out there! We are fortunate that a project highlighting holidays around the world is taking place during the same week so we are focusing on those books for the 4th and 5th grade classes and they will be presenting to the rest of the lower school.
So last week I put together a list of books that focused on being different, race in general, and homelessness and food insecurity. These are books that can hopefully open the door to conversations about topics we sometimes feel uncomfortable bringing up. They can show children that things that they feel are felt by others. They can help someone feel less alone.
I will be sharing a number of other multicultural books in the next few weeks and the link-up of blogs reviewing books will be live on January 27th. Until then, here are a few ideas you can bring to your classroom and you can find more here and be sure to check back on the 27th!