We Are Alike and Different, A Look at a Few Cultures
Young children are just beginning to understand that people are alike and different. The Ohio Early Learning Standards emphasize that boys and girls should be aware of and value the diversity of those around them.
Children’s literature provides valuable examples of people from many cultures as well as information regarding similarities and differences in traditions, homes, clothing, and daily life. The books included in this column introduce young readers to a little girl who loves to wrap up in her mother’s sari, a big sister who wishes her little sibling could eat kimchee, and a group of children who use their imaginations to create a dancing dragon. All of the stories feature characters and vocabulary from just a few of the world's cultures. So, open your eyes to the sights and your ears to the sounds as you share these multicultural books with boys and girls.
| ||My Nana and Me|
|by Irene Smalls, illustrations by Cathy Ann Johnson (Little, Brown Young Readers, 2005, ISBN 0316168211)|
The little girl in this story loves tea parties and dressing up and playing hide and seek. She loves dancing and braiding hair and listening to stories. But most of all, she loves her Nana, and her Nana definitely loves her. My Nana and Me honors the loving relationship between a little girl and her grandmother. The child believes that Nana is so tall that she can touch the sky, and the grandmother assures her granddaughter that she is her “sweetening” girl. With rhythmic text and soft pastel drawings, the story invites us to watch the two as they enjoy a day of just being together. This is a perfect book for a grandparent to share with a grandchild.
| ||My Pop Pop and Me|
|by Irene Smalls, illustrations by Cathy Ann Johnson (Little, Brown Young Readers, 2006, ISBN 0316734225)|
The companion book to My Nana and Me, this picture book tells of the cooking adventures of a little boy and his grandfather as they bake a lemon cake. Alliteration and rhyme make the story fun to read aloud, and the end pages feature a recipe and directions so that you can bake your very own lemon cake.
| ||So Much|
|by Trish Cooke, illustrations by Helen Oxenbury (Candlewick, 1997, ISBN 0763602965)|
A large, loving, extended family can’t seem to get enough of the little baby in this story because they all love him SO MUCH! At first, it’s just mom and baby at home, not really doing anything. Then the doorbell rings and it’s Auntie Bibba, come to visit. She can’t wait to squeeze the baby because she loves him so much. Each time the doorbell rings, another family member appears and grabs the baby up for some special time and special love. The house is filled and loud and laughing when daddy walks in and they all shout “Happy birthday!” to him. After the party, the relatives leave and the baby falls asleep remembering the hugging, squeezing, and kissing that he received from all of those who love him SO MUCH. This book is oversized with colorful illustrations that focus on the interactions of the people in the story. It reminds the reader of the blessings and chaos of large families.
| ||Welcome, Precious |
|by Nikki Grimes, illustrations by Bryan Collier (Orchard Books, 2006, ISBN 043955702X)|
A new baby is welcomed by loving parents who want to share the world with him. “Welcome, Precious. Welcome to a world wrapped in rainbow. Welcome to robin song and the swish of leaves in the breeze.” The little one is introduced to silky grass and satiny rose petals, sun-sparkle and the scent of rain, grandmother’s kisses and soft lullabies. Lovely words and comforting illustrations fill this inspirational book. Author Nikki Grimes and illustrator Bryan Collier have received numerous awards and are well known for their literary work. This book would be a wonderful gift for new parents.
The books for infants and toddlers reviewed above all focus on the child as an important member of the family. Extend these stories in the following ways:
- Encourage families to talk with their children about their own family background and traditions. What daily routines are important? What are the special things they do together during significant family, religious, and cultural holidays? How do they celebrate birthdays? What part do relatives and extended family play in everyday life?
- Invite families to send photographs of their family to school. Create a classroom scrapbook or bulletin board that the children can look at and talk about with friends. Ask the boys and girls what things are the same in the photographs and what things are different.
- Ask family members to come to school to share items and memorabilia significant to their culture. Take photographs during the visit that can be added to the scrapbook or bulletin board.
Books selected and reviewed by Carol Price
. Carol Price has been a preschool teacher and director, a kindergarten and first grade teacher, an elementary principal, and a K-12 English language arts coordinator. Recently retired after working thirty years for Worthington Schools in Worthington, Ohio, she now spends her time as an educational consultant, workshop presenter, and adjunct professor at a local college. More importantly, she finally has hours and hours available to read newly released children's books and to curl up with a few of her old favorites, too.
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