Growing up in a semi-rural city in central Wisconsin, the extent of my multicultural education didn’t extend far beyond selling skull lollipops for the Day of the Dead celebration in my Spanish class. Likewise, my reading tended to center around my environment. Now there is so much more to offer children to introduce them to different cultures, different people, and different environments. Multicultural picture books are a great way to expose children to a different way of life. Whether it’s through a story of pen pals from across the world, a girl trying to help on her African farm while another girl eagerly awaits the traveling library in Colombia, or a comparison of homes across both time and the world, children learn that there are many different ways to live.
Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Koestecki-Shaw
Two boys communicate across the world and compare their worlds through pictures. Elliot draws his life living in a big city with his parents, sister and dog, while Kailash draws pictures of his life in India with his very large family and all their animals. They find out that they do many of the same things, only a little differently. Elliot rides a bus to school, and so does Kailash although the buses differ. Elliot has an alphabet and so does Kailash, only different. Through these pictures, the boys learn that even though they live in different worlds, they aren’t so different from each other after all. A great look into comparing cultures.
ChirChir is Singing by Kelly Cunnane. Illustrated by Jude Daly.
In lyrical prose, Cunnane tells the story of Chirchir, who wants to help her family work on their farm in Africa. Chirchir tries to help different members of the family complete their tasks, but each time she tries, she ends up causing them more work. But she keeps singing and soon finds her perfect place–taking care of the baby and singing him to sleep. Children will learn how their lives differ from children in Kenya with this beautiful story.
Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown. Illustrated by John Parra.
When her teacher moves away, Ana is left with one book that she reads over and over again. There isn’t much opportunity to get more in rural Colombia until the biblioburro arrives with his trusty burros, Alfa and Beto. He gives Ana more books to read and encourages her to create her own using her imagination. When he returns weeks later, Ana returns his books and adds one of her stories to his collection. She goes to bed excited that children from the other villages will read her story. This is a great story to show children the importance of books and to inspire them to create their own stories.
If You Lived Here: Houses of the World by Giles Laroche.
Immerse yourself in different house structures around the world and throughout history with this multicultural gem. Laroche’s unique “paper relief” style includes collage and drawing to give his illustrations added depth. Children will love to look at all the different styles of homes people live in. Some will be hard to believe, like the modern cave dwellings in Spain or the floating houses in the Netherlands. Great for social studies units on human geography.
ChirChir is Singing by Kelly Cunnane. Illustrated by Jude Daly. 2011.
If You Lived Here: Houses of the World by Giles Laroche. 2011.
Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Koestecki-Shaw. 2011.
Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown. Illustrated by John Parra. 2011.