On Martin Luther King Day, it’s a great time to think about peace, harmony, and community. Our classrooms can be a haven for children to learn how to get along with others, even when people are different from us. Here are some guidelines from the original edition of the Anti-Bias Handbook:
1. Help each child nurture his or her self-concept and identity
2. Promote comfortable, empathic interactions with people from diverse backgrounds
3. Help children to understand what bias is
4. Cultivate children’s ability to stand up to bias
One effective way of reaching these goals is to use books for conversation starters and activities. Be sure to critically analyze the books you choose, such as this advice from Teaching for Change. Here are some of my favorite books:
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox is a short, simple celebration of different cultures around the world. I love the emphasis on how we are all the same.
Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley emphasizes cultural difference and similarities in one neighborhood by showing how many cultures cook rice in different forms. This would be a great classroom activity to taste all the different versions!
I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley encourages African American children to feel good about their special hair and to be proud of their heritage.
Welcoming Babies by Margy Burns Knight shows how cultures around the world welcome babies – christenings, naming ceremonies, songs, blessings, and so on.
The Children of the World is a complete encyclopedia of many, many countries that uses poems, pictures, and drawings of children around the world. This would be an excellent classroom resource book since it references 192 countries.
Family Pictures/Cuadros de Familia by Carmen Lomas Garza is a bright book with stories of a girl’s Mexican American childhood. The text, in both English and Spanish, describes 14 vignettes that bring this culture to life with joyful illustrations.
This amazing book, The Black Book of Colors is completely black with textured pages that can be felt with your fingers. It’s a wonderful way to help children experience the lack of eyesight. This book was created by the talented Venezuelan team of author Menena Cottin and illustrator Rosana Faria.
Pass it On: African-American Poetry for Children, collected by Wade Hudson is a book of poetry by 14 distinguished African American poets. This collection is intended to be passed down from one generation to another.
Feast for 10, a counting book by Cathryn Falwell, features an African American family shopping, cooking, and eating dinner. I love this very simple counting book because of the illustrations and integration of reading and math.
The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi, tells the story a little Korean girl named Unhei who is afraid her American classmates won’t be able to pronounce her name. This is a good book for starting a discussion about differences and how we can make classmates feel welcome.
I hope you will try out some of these books in your classroom or home and let me know what you think. Also, please share in the comments your own favorite multicultural books!