Children's books play a crucial role in the shaping of young minds. Books are windows into worlds that are unfamiliar (of course, they are often windows that lead readers to discover just how familiar these previously foreign worlds can be) and they are mirrors in which young people see their own lives reflected. Good books change minds, disprove stereotypes, deconstruct assumptions, and increase global understanding.
This week seems like a good time to think about books that can help young people to develop their sense of global understanding. Here is an incomplete list of wonderful resources:
I'm Your Neighbor: This is a tremendous annotated and organized database of books about different cultures and different social issues. It is searchable by setting, theme, and ethnic group(s) represented. It includes relevant reviews and suggested book lists, too. The goal of this carefully curated project/database is to "both support communities as their cultural makeup evolves and to create opportunities for children's literature featuring refugees, immigrants, and 'new' marginalized groups."
Notable Books for a Global Society: This list is compiled by the Children's Literature and Reading special interest group of the International Reading Association. They've been compiling these lists annually since 1996. The list consists of twenty five books that "enhance student understanding of people and cultures throughout the world." The lists includes a variety of genres and age ranges (but all for students K-12).
The Peace Education Project: "The Children's Peace Education Project is a home and classroom curriculum for young children and is also a library of specially selected books to teach peacemaking with young children between one and six years of age." This database of books is searchable by topic (knowledge of self and connection to others; joy in diversity; creative conflict resolution and sense of justice; imagination and playfulness; care and love of nature; global awareness), genre, and age. The organization also has a variety of anti-bias education resources.
Culturally Diverse Books selected by School Library Journal's review editors: This list was compiled by people who edit children's book reviews for publication in the preeminent school library professional journal. In other words, they know good books. However, after they published this list last year, readers responded and criticized some glaring omissions, such as the lack of Native American titles. School Library Journal reviewers responded by adding to their original list with other outstanding diverse titles. The journal's response and the additional titles can be found here.
And, of course, I would be remiss if I did not give credit to the incredible group of writers and readers working to increase the availability of a wide range of narratives in literature at We Need Diverse Books. They devote an incredible amount of time and energy to raise awareness of the necessity of diverse perspectives and we all benefit from their efforts.
If you know of other organizations, lists, awards, or resources that should be here, please leave them in the comments.
As always, to good books,