One of my favorite lyrics from the Disney movie “Pocahontas” is from the song “Colors of the Wind.” The line says: “If you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.” I feel like this idea rings true when it comes to multicultural education.
When we embrace information about other races and cultures, we are likely learning things that “we never knew we never knew.” Many cultures are underrepresented in traditional United States education aspects, but also in literature and entertainment. I was extremely saddened to learn that in 2018, 50 percent of protagonists in children’s literature were white, while only 1% were American Indian (oyanpeeps.com, 2019).
Underrepresentation of certain cultures also exists in TV and movies. The UCLA Hollywood diversity report from 2018 states: “only 1.4 of 10 lead actors are people of color” (yahoo.com, 2019).
If you would like to support authors of various cultures, it is important to seek them out. I have noticed a huge, positive shift in my local library. For the last year or so, the library has been showcasing books by authors of color on their “recommended reading” wall to promote diversity. It was the library’s “recommended reading” wall that led me to my new favorite book, “Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss” by Rajeev Balasubramanyam. But this is not the case for all libraries or bookstores, so it is still important for readers to try to find and support literature by authors of color.
Below, I have compiled a few children’s literature suggestions from authors of various cultures. All these suggestions can be found through Amazon and I have provided their links.
Children’s Books by American Indian/First Nation Authors
1) “When We Were Alone” by David Robertson. Link: https://www.amazon.com/When-Alone-David-Alexander-Robertson/dp/155379673X
2) “Jingle Dancer” by Cynthia Leitich Smith and Ying-Hwa Hu. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Jingle-Dancer-Cynthia-Leitich-Smith/dp/068816241X
3) “Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness to Light” by Tim Tingle. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Jingle-Dancer-Cynthia-Leitich-Smith/dp/068816241X
Children’s Books by Latinx Authors
1) “Alma and How She Got Her Name” by Juana Martinez-Neal. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Alma-How-She-Got-Name/dp/0763693553
2) “Friends from the Other Side/Amigos Del Otro Lado” by Gloria Anzaldua. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Friends-Other-Side-Amigos-otro/dp/0892391308
3) “Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and her Family’s Fight for Desegregation” by Duncan Tonatiuh. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Separate-Never-Equal-Family%C2%92s-Desegregation/dp/1419710540
Children’s Books by Asian Pacific Islander/Asian Pacific American Authors
1) “A Different Pond” by Bao Phi. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Different-Pond-Bao-Phi/dp/1623708036
2) “The Ugly Vegetables” by Grace Lin. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Ugly-Vegetables-Grace-Lin/dp/1570914915
3) “The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Name-Jar-Yangsook-Choi/dp/0440417996
Children’s Books by African/African American Authors
1) “Sulwe” by Lupita Nyong’o. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Sulwe-Lupita-Nyongo/dp/0241394325
2) “Hair Love” by Matthew A. Cherry. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Hair-Love-Matthew-Cherry/dp/0525553363
3) “Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History” by Vashti Harrison. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Little-Legends-Exceptional-Black-History/dp/0316475149
4) “Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History” by Vashti Harrison. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Little-Leaders-History-Vashti-Harrison/dp/0316475114
Children’s Books by Indian Authors
1) “Adventures with Hanuman” by Sattar Arshia. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Hanuman-Sattar-Arshia/dp/8129129345
2) “Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth” by Sanjay Patel. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Ganeshas-Sweet-Tooth-Sanjay-Patel/dp/1452145563
3) “Good Night India (Good Night Our World)” by Nitya Khemka. Link: https://www.amazon.com/Good-Night-India-Our-World/dp/1602194777
These suggestions will teach your kiddos about different aspects of varying cultures. Some of the books speak about international food. Others speak about the process of immigrating to the U.S. Some speak about embracing or resisting the culture they were born into.
These books will teach kids what people from varying cultures may look like, what other languages may sound like, and about a variety of cultural traditions and history. The more kids know about multicultural education, the more they will understand culture and hopefully, they will embrace diversity.