Cultural Diversity In Books For Kids
For cultural harmony to flourish in our world, it’s crucial that we teach the next generation how to express and acknowledge cultural difference. Sharing stories about the diverse cultures, religions and languages of the world can help even the youngest readers develop a deeper understanding of their own cultural environment as well as world cultures. Read on to discover 10 of the best creative, colourful picture books ideal for talking to kids about cultural diversity.
1. The Great Big Book Of Families Mary Hoffman & Ros Asquith, Frances Lincoln, RRP: A$29.99
Who’s in your family? Some people have lots of brothers and sisters, whilst others can be a family with just two people. This book explores the notion of family in its broadest sense, from different parent and carer arrangements, to different dwellings, jobs, clothing and celebrations. It showcases the idea that families are busy, silly, loving and frustrating – no matter what they look like.
2. Same, But Little Bit Diff’rent
Kylie Dunstan, Windy Hollow Books, RRP: $29.99
With beautiful, bold illustrations, this book shares the story of a little girl from the city and her friend Normie, who lives ‘right up the very top of Australia’. Lots of things about their lives are very similar, but also distinctive. Normie’s family goes fishing for their dinner, for example, while in the city they buy fish from the market. They’re both eating fish, just a little bit different. This book reminds us of the many things we have in common with people from diverse backgrounds.
3. The Other Bears
Michael Thompson, Fremantle Press, RRP: $18.99
The koalas are happy to be known as bears, but they’re not very happy about all the new bears moving into their neighborhood. First it’s the pandas, then it’s the polar bears! These new bears look different and sound different; it’s all very confusing. But the young koalas of the group find the newcomers interesting, not scary. “I don’t like their ears”, grumbled Father Koala…”But we love their food!” grinned the little koalas. This is a book about looking for the positives in cultural difference – and the possibility for younger generations to embrace diversity more readily than their ancestors.
4. Fair Skin Black Fella
Renee Fogorty, Magabala Books, RRP: $18.95
This book addresses the important fact that someone’s cultural background is not identifiable by skin colour. Interspersed with words from the Wiradjuri language, this story introduces Mary, a girl with an Aboriginal mother and a white father who is struggling to figure out how she fits in. An Aboriginal elder helps Mary and her community understand that colour is not what makes culture. It is how you feel in your heart and soul which is important.
5. I’m Like You, You’re Like Me
Cindy Gainer & Miki Sakamoto, Free Spirit Publishing, RRP: $19.95
We can try our best to be kind to each other. Even when we don’t agree with each other. Bright illustrations and rhyming language makes this a light, engaging way to talk about acceptance. From our hair colour to our hobbies, we are all different and yet it is possible to get along and work and play together. This book calls on us to accept other people – and ourselves – just as we are.
6. My Granny Went To Market
Cindy Gainer & Miki Sakamoto, Free Spirit Publishing, RRP: $18.95
Another winning combination of colour and rhyme, this book sees Granny on a whirlwind shopping tour, buying interesting cultural objects from each place she visits. The book adds a counting element too, as Granny chooses one flying carpet in Istanbul, two temple cats in Thailand, three funny masks in Mexico, and so on. Illustrations are detailed and give a taste of cultural life in each destination.
David Miller, Lothian, RRP: $19.99
On a more somber note, Refugees follows the plight of two ducks who are displaced from their swamp when bulldozers descend. The terrified ducks brave a long journey across the sea to look for a new home, only to be greeted by squawking seagulls who try to chase them away. The ducks are hunted and hidden in dark, scary boxes before eventually finding a peaceful new swamp. With Australia’s policies around refugees so topical right now, this book offers a way to start a conversation with kids about this very challenging subject.
8. Sorry Sorry
Anne Kerr, Boolarong Press, RRP: $18.95
Suitable for children across a broad age range, this book has been praised by educators as a sensitive introduction to race relations and reconciliation in Australia. It offers a simple retelling of the colonization story from the perspective of ‘The First Peoples’, explaining how and why ‘The Others’ might feel the need to say sorry for the actions of their ancestors. Importantly, it ends on an optimistic note: This is a new journey. A journey together where it is important to share, be fair and to care.
9. We All Went On Safari
Laurie Krebs & Julia Cairns, Barefoot Books, RRP: $19.95
Another clever counting book, this story invites children to learn some basic Swahili as they discover African animals. The rhyming text takes the reader through the landscapes of Tanzania with a group of local children. We all went on safari, near the Serengeti gate. We startled wiry warthogs, Suhuba counted eight. Featuring maps and translations at the back of the book, a portion of sales is donated to the African Wildlife Foundation.
10. Nyuntu Ninti
Bob Randall & Melanie Hogan, ABC Books, RRP: $22.95
Based on the award-winning documentary Kanyini, we join Uncle Bob Randall as he shares the things every Australian should know about the ancient culture at the heart of our country. Interspersing historical photos with contemporary snap shots from the Uluru region, the book looks at connection to land and family and the belief systems of Bob’s community – the Anangu people.
Lara Cain Gray is a reader, writer and mum. She reviews books for kids at her blog This Charming Mum.
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