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Choose Good Books That Accurately Reflect Cultures and Home Languages

Originally published:

Teacher Reading To Children At Story Time

When teachers and child care directors are seeking new books to add to classroom libraries, it’s important to think intentionally about the children and families who will be reading those books. Across our state, many home visiting and early education and care programs serve families from a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Having a variety of picture books, fictional stories, folk tales, and nonfiction books available to share with all children and families builds relationships across home and program settings.

Young children build critical language skills when looking at books and listening to stories. It is important for home visitors, teachers, and child care directors to select high-quality books that accurately reflect the cultures and home languages of the children and families they serve.

Children’s books written in the home language should also be culturally responsive. This is especially true if the family has recently settled in the United States. Families may be interested to share books or stories that depict daily life in their home culture. This can provide an opportunity for the program to positively acknowledge the child’s culture. All the children can learn about their friend’s homeland and expand their understanding of cultures and languages.

Finding culturally responsive books for young children can be challenging. Fortunately, the National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness (NCCLR) has created a quick guide for teachers: Selecting Culturally Appropriate Children’s Books in Languages Other Than English. This quick guide has information about finding books in multiple languages and ideas for sharing books with families. The guide includes points to consider when choosing culturally responsive books.

Teachers and child care directors may want to celebrate Multicultural Children’s Book Day on January 25, 2019. The website for this event includes a link to Diversity Book Lists & Activities for Teachers and Parents. Teachers may want to sign up for free posters for Multicultural Children’s Book Day and book giveaways.

When young children see characters in books who look and speak like them, there is an opportunity for meaningful connections with their teachers and caregivers. Welcoming every child and family by intentionally providing culturally responsive books to homes and classrooms demonstrates to all that each child is a valued member of their learning community.

Bernie Laumann

Bernie Laumann

Dr. Bernadette M. Laumann was the coordinator of the Illinois Early Learning Project from 2013 to 2019. She has been a child care teacher, an early childhood special education teacher, director of an inclusive early childhood program, researcher, and university teacher educator. Her research interests include mentoring and induction activities for beginning teachers and the use of technology in connecting evidence-based practice.

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About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Family Child Care
  • Child Care Center
  • Preschool Program
  • Kindergarten

Intended audience(s):
  • Parents / Family
  • Teachers / Service providers
  • Faculty / Trainer

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
Related IEL Birth to Three Guidelines:
Related Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards:
Reviewed: 2019