From my bookshelf — 22 Multicultural picture books

  • Published on January 23, 2019

From my bookshelf — 22 Multicultural picture books

from my bookshelf - multicultural childrens picture books

In last week’s post, Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Book Review, I suggested that the day “provides us with an opportunity to examine the collections of books in our classrooms and libraries to determine if they reflect the lives our children.”

I decided that perhaps I should examine my own personal picture book collection too. While I am happy with the collection, there are gaps and I’m sure more could be added. However, I know that a visit to my local or school library will provide me with access to many more.

readilearn’s multicultural teaching resources

As well as investigating my book collection, I had a look at readilearn teaching resources to see how they stacked up.

The establishment of a supportive classroom, one that is welcoming to all, is a recurrent theme on readilearn; as are activities for getting to know one another and establishing friendship skills.

I am proud to say that, when children are included in illustrations, children from diverse backgrounds, even if not in traditional costume, are portrayed. This is intentional. You can see evidence of this on the Home page and in the Literacy and History banners as well as in teaching resources such as Friendship superpower posters and Who am I? Friends at play.

friendship superpower posters is a series of posters to support the development of friendship skills in an early childhood classroominteractive who am I puzzle to solve

Resources that encourage children to get to know each other rank highly in the readilearn collection. The reason for this is my belief that with knowledge comes understanding, respect and friendship.

Used at the beginning of the year, the unit Family Traditions and Celebrations is a great way of finding out more about the children and their families. It helps develop understanding and provides information that can be used throughout the year to celebrate traditions important to cultures represented in your class.

Family traditions and celebrations

There is a whole category devoted to the development of Friendship Skills and other getting to know you activities such as Getting to know you surveys that help children to recognise ways in which they are different as well as ways in which they are similar.

these surveys are great for helping children and teachers get to know each other

Please check out the resources to see how diversity is recognised and get ready to use the free resources for celebrating Chinese New Year coming up in just over a week.

Chinese New Year celebrations

In addition to these existing resources, this week I have uploaded a list of Multicultural picture books — a selection from my bookshelf.

Multicultural picture books - a selection from my bookshelf

Multicultural picture books —a selection from my bookshelf.

Whoever You Are

Whoever You Are is a beautiful picture book that reminds children everywhere that “there are little ones just like you all over the world.” The observable features may be different, but “Inside, their hearts are just like yours.” What a powerful and important message for all children to learn.

All are Welcome

All Are Welcome follows a group of children through a day at school where everyone is welcome regardless of race, religion or background. The book is a delightful and vibrant celebration of inclusivity, diversity and kindness.

I Am Farmer_the story of Cameroon environmentalist Tantoh Nforba

I am Farmer is the story of Tantoh Nforba, environmental hero of Cameroon. Told in words, photographs and illustrations the story traces Tantoh’s story from childhood, when he was bullied for his interest in the soil, plants and nature, through to adulthood when he improves the lives of many communities by providing access to clean water.

When I was a girl in Sudan

When I was a girl in Sudan is the story of traditional life in South Sudan as told by Paskalina Eiyo. Paskalina is a Madi elder who, after escaping war in Sudan via a refugee camp in Uganda, was resettled with her children in Tasmania.

When I was a boy in Sudan

When I was a boy in Sudan is the story of traditional life in South Sudan as told by Sarafino Enadio. It tells of Sarafino’s life as a boy growing up in Eastern Equatoria where he helped look after his family’s garden. Sarafino had to leave Sudan because of war and now lives in Tasmania.

Papunya School Book of Country and History

The Papunya School Book of Country and History, produced by staff and students at the Papunya School. Beautifully illustrated and explained, the book helps to develop understanding of Australia’s history and the people who lived, and live, in it. These understandings help build connections that strengthen reconciliation.

Say Yes a Story of Friendship, Fairness and a Vote for Hope

Say Yes, A Story of Friendship, Fairness and a Vote for Hope by Jennifer Castles tells of two young girls whose friendship is strong despite the attempts of segregation to keep them apart; and of the 1967 referendum in which Australian people voted overwhelmingly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be recognised as people in the Constitution. It is a beautiful picture book with much to discuss.

Stradbroke Dreamtime

Stradbroke Dreamtime is a collection of stories by Indigenous author, poet, and political activist Oodgeroo. The stories, beautifully illustrated by Bronwyn Bancroft, tell of Stradbroke Island and of the Old and New Dreamtime. Some stories are from Oodgeroo’s own life, and others from those of her ancestors.

Once There Was a Boy

Once there was a boy, written and illustrated by Dub Leffler, is a beautiful book about a boy living alone on an island until, one day, a girl comes. When the boy leaves to gather food, he tells the girl to not look under his bed. Should he trust her? Can she overcome her curiosity to honour his request? This book about friendship, trust, temptation, and reconciliation has many themes to discuss.

The Last of His Tribe

The Last of His Tribe, a poem written by Henry Kendall in 1864 and republished with illustrations by Percy Trezise and Mary Haginikitas, is a sad but beautiful reflection on a history of loss and loneliness.

Slowly Slowly

Slowly! Slowly! is an adaptation of a traditional South African story. It tells of Bongani who wants to go to school but his family considers him too young. To prove he is big enough he tries to catch a monkey, learning the lessons of patience and compassion along the way. Helene Magisson’s illustrations complement T.M. Clark’s retelling beautifully.

Travelling Tales A Collective Creation

Travelling Tales A Collective Creation is a collection of stories “imagined by girls and boys” who fled their countries due to war. The children were in refugee camps in Greece, waiting to journey elsewhere, when they told these stories. While fictional stories, they also reflect the way the authors see the world.

Malala's Magic Pencil

Malala’s Magic Pencil tells the true story of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai who, as a child, wished for a magic pencil. As she grew older, she used a real pencil to write letters about changes she wished to see in her worn-torn country, especially improved access to education. The story is full of hope and shows how even just one person can make a difference.

I'm Australian Too

I’m Australian Too is a celebration of the multicultural diversity that contributes to Australian life. From the original inhabitants, to immigrants from near and far, the book celebrates each one and asks, “How about you?”

You and Me Murrawee

You and Me Murrawee tells of a young girl camping beside a river in Australia with her family. She imagines what life would have been like for the people living there two hundred years before. She imagines a friend Murrawee who guides us to understanding through learning to observe and listen.

Advance Australia Fair

Advance Australia Fair presents the lyrics to Australia’s National Anthem with a multicultural cast with which to sing along. The illustrations feature scenes from Australia’s landscape and way of life.

Ready. Set. Discover Logan

Ready. Set. Discover Logan tells of Yana, a new arrival to Australia, who meets up with Bunji, an Aboriginal boy, at the library. A true friendship develops as Bunji shows Yana around the local environment and they share information about traditions celebrated in their own and other cultures.

Magic Fish Dreaming

Magic Fish Dreaming is a beautiful book of poems set in the tropical heart of far north Queensland. The book encourages an exploration of words and nature and honours the ancestors who walked this way before us as it reflects on life in harmony with the environment.

Nian the Lunar Dragon

Nian the Lunar Dragon is an entertaining and beautifully illustrated rhyming narrative for young readers. It is about the legend behind the traditions and celebrations of Chinese New Year, sometimes called Lunar New Year. According to the lunar calendar, Chinese New Year commences with the new moon at the beginning of spring.

My Painted House My Friendly Chicken and Me

My Painted House My Friendly Chicken and Me tells the story of an eight-year-old Ndebele girl who lives in a painted village in South Africa. It shares the challenges and joys of growing up between two worlds—the traditional and the modern.

Tea and Sugar Christmas

Tea and Sugar Christmas tells about the Tea and Sugar Train that travelled across the Nullarbor Plain between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie once a week from 1917 to 1996. The train delivered goods and services to people living in remote communities along the way. In December, the train would carry a special Christmas passenger. This story tells of the anticipation of his arrival and what it meant to children in those small remote communities.

Charlie's Adventures in South Africa

Charlie’s Adventures … in South Africa tells of Charlie’s second adventure with his family. With his friends, Charlie is sent on an adventure discovering different clues necessary to uncover South Africa’s Rainbow Nation. Join Charlie and his family on their adventures across the world with books to other destinations.

I hope you find this list useful and read some of the books to your children to help celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day on 25 January, or any day. Join in the fun on social media with #ReadYourWorld.

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    An impressive collection, Norah! I love Mem Fox, but I also enjoy the vast variety of how children are represented from cartoonish to realistic. Your materials are a good guide to how to incorporate these books into the classroom. Diversity in authors begins with honoring diversity in students.

    Thanks, Charli. I’m pleased you appreciate my collection. Like you, I love Mem Fox, but it also good to see the diversity that is available to children in setting, story, and illustration. It is true that “Diversity in authors begins with honoring diversity in students.”

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