This Friday, Jan. 25, is Multicultural Children’s Book Day, a book-reading and book-discussing celebration intended to contribute to children’s understandings of their own cultures and the appreciation of others’ cultures. Perhaps you heard about this special day in the media.
It is more likely, however, that you read or saw video of an incident in Washington, D.C., involving some high school boys who were in the nation’s capitol to participate in the March for Life, an anti-abortion event. They encountered a small celebration of Native Americans rallying for rights for indigenous peoples and a group of Hebrew Israelites, African descent people who were there to promote their belief that Africans are God’s chosen people, descendants of the Hebrews of the Bible. Evidently (and at this point the actual facts of this encounter are still emerging) there was an unnecessarily distressing confluence of three cultures that collided in a place designed to be welcoming to all. This event might have been an open opportunity for developing deeper understandings among each of these groups, but instead reportedly became confrontational, with insults thrown about.
Talk about a perfect showcase for why American children might productively be taught about and learn to respect a variety of cultures!
So, this Friday’s Multicultural Children’s Book Day observance is a great time to appreciate the critical value of books that celebrate cultural diversity. These types of books are fantastic resources for initiating conversations within a family or classroom about the nature of culture, the culture of each reader, as well as cultures of others near and far who live very different lives guided by very different values.
First efforts to engender appreciation for culture in a youngster might lead to a local library and a children’s librarian. Parents and teachers who would like quicker access to help in launching these kinds of critical life lessons through using beautifully written and illustrated books, might also start with exploring the range of lists of book choices provided by the Multicultural Children’s Book Day website.
Our cultures define each of us. Fully appreciating cultures other than our own is a critical learning goal for us all. Multicultural books provide each of us a gateway to that important lesson for world peace.
Read on with open minds and open hearts.