Multiculturalism makes children more tolerant of differences and helps them to appreciate differences and diverse people. Most of all, it makes them more open-minded to the people and world around them.
While I was pregnant with my oldest (and still had time to read books!) I read NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children and one of the chapters that struck me the most was the one about race. It mentioned how there is a strong belief in our Western society that we should be colorblind and not talk about race. However the new thought, which makes sense to me, is that race should be explained to our children. Here is a great article from Psychology Today as to why and another one as to why and how.
One of the easiest ways is via multicultural books and I thought I would highlight our favorites here.
Global Babies by the Global Fund for Children
Most babies love other babies so this book has always been a favorite. It shows babies from around the world and as they grow it is a great way to start pointing out differences in hair color, skin color, how they are carried, their clothes.
All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman
All are Welcome is another great book for preschoolers. It shares the message of a school where everyone's differences are loved and celebrated. Each page introduces different types of race, religions, ethnicities, and body types and all are celebrated with the message, “All are Welcome Here.”
Shades of People by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly
This book is a good introduction for young preschoolers to explain that the world is full of different cultures and different looking people. The only thing that is the same around the world is that there are differences everywhere you look. The book is full of beautiful photographs of people of all skin tones and culture. The words are simple and this book makes a great conversation starter.This is a beautiful book with intricate drawings. My oldest loves looking at the drawings and pointing out all the details. It teaches that the world is a wonderful, diverse place but that people everywhere seek the same things: love, security, creativity, and the freedom to express their unique place in the universe.
These books are great for 6 and up. They are very informative with beautiful photos, good descriptions, and a lot of information about children around the world, their culture, their lives and their holidays, and celebrations. The children in the books are easy to relate to and share their interests and we can see their similarities and differences.
This is a beautiful book in an accordion format (so pretty long). The book gives children a basic and fun introduction to time across the world, various cultures, and how other children live. There is a map at the end of the story, and the interesting illustrations can spark many conversations and curiosities.
Martin's Big Words: The Life Of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr by Doreen Rappaport
We bought this book at the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which is located in the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. Alex, then 5, had a very hard time understanding why someone would murder somebody else and why a woman was arrested for sitting in the "wrong" place on the bus. This book helped him ask us more questions every time we read it. The book helped him to process why this happened and also who Martin Luther King, Jr was. It is an amazing book that gives a great snapshot of his entire life and the importance of what he did.
Maya Angelou, Little People, Big Dreams by Lisbeth KaiserThis is a great book about a strong woman. Great for children 6 and up.
Mes Animaux du Monde and Mes Monuments du Monde by Clementine Sourdais
You could probably consider these more geography books but they introduce the culture of different countries in subtle ways, such as with the Blue Mosque in Turkey. Each page opens up wide on 3 sides and the last page is made of a beautiful pop up.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack KeatsThe Snowy Day is a classic. It shows children that people from all ethnic background experience joy, wonder, disappointment, and excitement. The story and art are simple and fun but the message is very important.
The First Bear in Africa by Satomi Ichikawa (French)
The story is told from the perspective of an African child, whose family lives on the Savannah plains. A few tourists come for a visit, and a young girl forgets her teddy bear. Meto, the young boy, then runs across the savannah, trying to catch up to the girl and return her animal to her. No one has ever seen a bear in Africa before. Swahili words for "Goodbye" and for various savannah animals are used throughout the book.