Great Picks For Your Multicultural Book Bag
Reading is such a big deal in our house. Sharing a book before bed is still one of my don't-miss rituals. Giving our children a rich reading experience is one of the best things we can do for them.
I always love the joy my children get from reading books with characters that look like them. A truly rich experience in reading and in life includes a range of multicultural books that can expose children to other cultures and help them better appreciate their own.
Here are my Native American, Latino, Asian and African-American picks for a multicultural book bag every kid will love and a few tips for getting great finds.
Tip: When you are looking for great Native American books make sure they depict characters from an individual nation such as Navajos or Cherokee, as opposed to generic Indians.
Gluskabe and the Four Wishes retold by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Christine Nyburg Shrader (Cobblehill, 1995). In this tale of the Wabanaki nations, four men each ask for a different wish from Gluskabe, the Great Spirit's helper, but only one learns that great gifts come to those who listen and take heed.
Ma'ii and Cousin Horned Toad by Shonto Begay (Scholastic, 1992).Cousin Horned Toad gives tricky Ma'ii the coyote a lesson to remember when Ma'ii tries to get something for nothing in this Navajo tale.
Tip: When looking for Latino books make sure the author is Latino and look for good storytelling, instead of social issues that may be too heavy for youngsters. I also love books that include Spanish words and phrases, and I always try to learn how to pronounce them correctly.
Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto, illustrated by Ed Martinez (Putnam, 1993). Mexican-American Maria tries her mother's wedding ring on while she is making tamales for Christmas dinner. When the ring is missing, Maria is sure it is in one of the tamales, and she and her cousins try to eat their way out of trouble.
Rabbit Wishes by Linda Shute (Lothrop, 1995). Young ones will love the story of tio Conejo (Uncle Rabbit) and his wish that Papa Dios make him bigger. This African-Cuban folktale is one of many great tales about tio Conejo.
Tip: One of things I've tried to do is expose my children to books by and about people of African descent living in other parts of the world--like the Caribbean, Africa and Great Britain.
From Miss Ida's Porch by Sandra Belton, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Four Winds, 1993). Miss Ida's porch is a place where mothers and fathers and uncles and grandmothers and neighbors gather to share stories. Cooper's paintings give dimension to this story about the power of memories.
One of my favorite new finds is Giant Steps to Change the World (Simon & Schuster) by filmmaker Spike Lee and his wife, Tonya Lewis Lee. The powerful message that everyone has a hero inside of them and it only takes one small step to start, really hit home for my kids.
Tip: I love books that highlight some of the values in Asian culture like cooperation and respect for family.
One Afternoon by Yumi Heo (Orchard Books, 1994). This book by a Korean-American author/illustrator communicates love through the simple story of a boy and his mother doing errands. Father's Rubber Shoes is Heo's latest.
Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear by Lensey Namioka, illustrated by Kees de Kiefte (Little Brown, 1992). In this humorous story of a Chinese family in Seattle, tone-deaf Yingtao wants to give up his violin lessons, so he must convince his parents that he is not a virtuoso-in-the-making, like his siblings.
What are your favorite ethnic books? Please share to keep our list growing!