Multicultural Literature for Children

General Purpose

Reading multicultural literature can help children gain a better understanding of people from other countries and ethnic backgrounds. These stories may describe how people live in different parts of the world, or they may portraying how children from different cultural backgrounds live together in the same country. They can be fiction, nonfiction, folk tales, fairy tales, legends, or poetry, but above all they must be accurate and portray characters in positive, non-stereotypical ways. The information presented here will help parents, teachers, and other interested adults find bibliographical lists of high quality multicultural materials for children of all ages.

Why should children read mulicultural literature?

Reading literature about people from other cultures has been proven to have positive developmental affects on children of all backgrounds. For the children of a specific ethnic minority, reading positive stories about their own ethnic group can increase self-esteem and make them feel part of a larger society. For children of a "majority" group, reading stories about other cultures can increase their sensitivity to those who are different from themselves, improve their knowledge of the world, and help them realize that although people have many differences, they also share many similarities.

Internet Resources: General Multicultural Literature Sites

There are a large number of Internet web sites that provide bibliographical listings of multicultural children's materials. Some of the best sites are noted below.

American Library Association: "Notable Books for Children" http://www.ala.org/alsc/awards.html This sites mentions the titles of multiethnic material throughout their lists of notable children's books from various years.

Books to use for the Chinese New Year http://www.apples4theteacher.com/holidays/chinese-new-year/kids-books/ A list of books about the Chinese New Year is presented here.

The New York Public Library: Celebrate...Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month! http://kids.nypl.org/reading/recommended2.cfm?ListID=57 Stories for Younger Readers, Folk and Fairy Tales, Stories for Older Readers, Non-Fiction, Poetry, and links to other Internet Sites on Asia-Pacific Heritage are all covered at this site.

The New York Public Library: Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month! http://kids.nypl.org/reading/recommended2.cfm?ListID=56 This site lists books for children in English and in Spanish with Hispanic themes.

South Asian Children's Books http://www3.ntu.edu.sg/home/mdamodaran/html/sabks/bkl6.html Books listed here have South Asian themes and include fiction, nonfiction, folk tales, and fairy tales.

Internet Resources: Multiethnic Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, and Legends

Reading fairy tales, folk tales, and legends from different cultures around the world can be a creative way for children to improve their vocabulary development. It can also be fun for children to see how the same story theme, like that of Cinderella, varies from one country to another.

Cinderella Books From Around The World http://www.salem.k12.va.us/south/cinderella/cinderbooks.htm This site lists versions of the Cinderella fairy tale from different countries all over the world, including China, Russia, and Africa.

1996 Aesop Accolade List http://people.ucalgary.ca/~dkBrown/aesop96.html The best folk tales published in 1996 are noted here. Many of them are from different cultures around the world.

The New York Public Library: Asian-Pacific Folk and Fairy Tales http://kids.nypl.org/holidays/asian.cfm This site has lists of folk and fairy tales from Asia and the Pacific.

Internet Resources: Interracial Themes

These sites list titles of books that cover themes of multi-racial families. Such books may be of interest to all children.

Children's and Young Adult Books with Interracial Family Themes http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/newmultirace.htm

Recommended Picture Books Featuring Interracial Families http://www.education.wisc.edu/ccbc/books/detailListBooks.asp?idBookLists=143

Printed Materials: General Multicultural Lists

There are a number of books and magazine articles that present bibliographies of multicultural literature for children. Some of the best are noted below. Since some of these titles may not be readily available, you may want to ask your local librarian to help you locate them.

Agosto, Denise. "Bilingual Picture Books: Libros para Todos." School Library Journal. August 1997. pp. 38-39. This article lists titles of bilingual children's books written in English and Spanish.

Eisenhut, Lynn. "Understanding Diversity Through Children's Books." Catholic Library World. pp. 28-35.

Finazzo, Denise Ann. All for the Children: Multicultural Essentials of Literature. Albany: Delmar Publishers, 1997.

Kobrin, Beverly. Eyeopeners!: How to Choose and Use Children's Books About Real People, Places, and Things. New York: Penguin Books, 1988. pp. 134-137. This book also has interesting activities associated with some of the stories listed.

Kruse, Ginny Moore. "No Single Season: Multicultural Literature for All Children." Wilson Library Bulletin. February 1992. pp. 30-33+.

Norton, Donna E. Through the Eyes of a Child: An Introduction to Children's Literature. Columbus: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company, 1983. pp. 542-545.

Rochman, Hazel. Against Borders: Promoting Books for a Multicultural World. Chicago: American Library Association, 1993.

Rudman, Masha Kabakow. Children's Literature: An Issues Approach. 2nd ed. New York: Longman, 1984. pp. 159-245.

Tucker, Judith Cook. "Let Their Voices Be Heard!: Building a Multicultural Audio Collection." MultiCultural Review. April 1992. pp. 16-20.

Other Magazine Resources

Some magazines regularly review multicultural materials for children. Some of these magazines are noted below. As with the other print resources noted above, you may need to ask your local librarian for assistance in locating these magazines.

  • American Libraries
  • American Library Journal
  • Booklist
  • Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
  • Catholic Library Journal
  • Horn Book
  • MultiCultural Review
  • School Library Journal
  • Wilson Library Bulletin

Other Sources of Information on Multicultural Literature for Children

Because literature for children is often organized according to reading level instead of content area, it can sometimes be difficult to find separate sections of these types of books in both libraries and bookstores. If you find this to be the case, do not hesitate to ask your local librarian to help you find a particular title or theme. They are familiar with their library's resources and will be able to point you to the titles most appropriate for your child's reading needs or desires.

Conclusion

Reading stories about people from other cultures can be a valuable learning experience for all children. A book does not have to stress the uniqueness of a culture for it to be beneficial, however, it just has to be accurate, sensitive, and avoid negative, stereotypical, and condescending depictions of the culture in question. Reading books about everyday events in which characters unself-consciously represent children from different cultures is also important. Above all, books with multicultural characters or themes can simply be fun to read!

This pathfinder was created by Michele de la Iglesia

You may also wish to see The IPL KidSpace, especially the Reading Zone and Our World sections.