Celebrate the Holidays with These 16 Multicultural Books for Children
written by: Elizabeth Wistrom
• edited by: Noreen Gunnell
• updated: 8/2/2012
These four multicultural books make for great reads when teaching about holidays around the world. Find books you can use for read aloud time, or to offer during silent reading in the classroom, appropriate for Grades K through Six.
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Holiday multicultural books for children are a great way to introduce new cultures. They may also be used as a springboard for discussions about traditions and how they can vary. Here is a list of titles for winter, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the Christmas holiday. Multicultural books for children offered are appropriate for ages pre K - 6th grade.
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The Black Snowman, by Phil Mendez (Scholastic Books)
In this story, we meet little Jacob, who is struggling with his identity. He hates being poor and associates his situation with the fact that he is black. The reader senses his frustration as he and his little brother make a snowman from the black, dirty snow. All of this changes, however, when the snowman suddenly comes to life after the brothers unknowingly drape him in a small piece of a magical kente, which is a type of cloth historically worn by African storytellers.
Jacob learns from the snowman of the rich history being black presents, and in the process begins to see his cultural heritage in an entirely new light. It is this new found confidence that then helps him to save his brother's life.
Other suggested African American holiday titles:
Christmas Soul: American American Holiday Stories, by Allison Samuels
Hold Christmas in Your Heart: African American Songs, Poems and Stories for the Holidays, by Cheryl Willis Hudson
Addy's Surprise: A Christmas Story (American Girls Collection), by Connie Porter and Dahl Taylor
Pablo's Christmas, by Hugo C. Martin (Sterling)
Pablo lives on a small farm in rural Mexico, and even though his family works hard, they have very little. Pablo's father decides he must leave to try and find work in America. He leaves little Pablo in charge during his absence. The boy does his best to provide for his family and make Christmas time special. On Christmas Day, the father returns and the family is reunited.
This story is particularly demonstrative of the plight of many Mexican families, and for older students could be used as a springboard for discussion about migrant workers.
Other suggested titles about Christmas around the world:
Merry Christmas Strega Nona, by Tomie dePaola
Children Around the World Celebrate Christmas, by Susan Titus Osborn
Felix's Christmas Around the World, by Annette Langen
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblin, by Eric A. Kimmel (Holiday House)
This story is a wonderful introduction to the symbols and traditions typically associated withe Hanukkah (or Chanukah). Meet Hershel of Ostropol, a clever traveler who outwits a group of Hanukkah-hating hobgoblins who terrorize the residents of a small village each holiday season. Although fictional, this story serves as a retelling of the struggle ancient Judeans endured against the Syrians, who refused to let them worship in the way the wanted, and incorporates the same Hanukkah traditions enjoyed by those of the Jewish faith still today.
Other suggested Hanukkah titles:
The Eight Nights of Chanukkah, by Leslea Newman and Elivia Savadier
The Chanukkah Guest, by Eric A. Kimmel and Giora Carmi
The Chanukkah Tree, by Eric A. Kimmel
My First Kwanzaa, by Deborah Chocolate (Scholastic)
This story is an excellent introduction to the Kwanzaa holiday, and some of the traditions which are associated with it. For older students, these traditions may be compared and contrasted to the traditions of other winter holidays.