I have always enjoyed reading children’s books with children in my classroom and with my children when they were growing up. During my 13 years as a classroom teacher, one of my favorite things to do was to scour the local public library for diverse books to read to the children and add to our classroom learning centers. Whenever I searched the library for children’s books, I was acutely aware of how few books were available that depicted children and families from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Other than a small number of authors (the wonderful Ezra Jack Keats comes to mind), most books for young children depicted white, native, English-speaking characters, or the main characters were some type of toy or animal (think Paddington Bear). I found it difficult to find books that had stories about children and families from the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the children in my classroom. Although it is now many years later, there are still few children’s books published that feature multicultural characters. Our country’s immigrant population has grown extensively over the past decade, and yet there are still very few multicultural children’s books available.
Two play and reading advocates, Mia Wenjen and Valarie Budayr, are the co-founders of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, a day to celebrate diversity in children’s books. This year Multicultural Children’s Book Day is January 27, 2016, and the goal is to get multicultural books to those children and their families who need them most. The Multicultural Children’s Book Day website contains a page of reading resources for teachers, parents, and librarians.
It’s wonderful to have a special day to focus our awareness on multicultural children’s books and their authors. Teachers, administrators, and children’s librarians may want to recognize this day with special guest readers, family activities focused on children’s books, and multicultural book displays. Invite children to bring a favorite book to your early care and education program. Take photos of children with their favorite book and display them. Teachers may want to participate in the Multicultural Children’s Book Day Classroom Reading Challenge!