Multicultural Children’s Books

Teen Read Week™ is a national adolescent literacy initiative created by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). It began in 1998 and is held annually during the third week of October – that’s this week! Its purpose is to encourage teens to “Read For The Fun Of It.” Teen Read Week 2016 features a multi-lingual theme celebrating diversity and highlighting multi-cultural literature. Here are some of my favorite books in this category, not just for teens but for all ages:

Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message, by Jake Swamp. This beautifully illustrated “Reading Rainbow” book is a special children’s version of the Thanksgiving Address, a message of gratitude that originated with the Native people of upstate New York and Canada and that is still spoken at ceremonial gatherings held by the Iroquois, or Six Nations. (Ages 5-11.)

Freedom’s Pen: A Story Based on the Life of Freed Slave and Author Phillis Wheatley, by Wendy Lawton. Phillis Wheatley was a little girl of seven or eight years old when she was captured in Gambia and brought to America as a slave. But she didn t let her circumstances keep her down. She learned to read and write in English and Latin, and showed a natural gift for poetry. By the time she was twelve, her elegy at the death of the great pastor George Whitefield brought her worldwide acclaim. Phillis became known to heads of state, including George Washington himself, speaking out for American independence and the end of slavery. She became the first African American to publish a book, and her writings would eventually win her freedom. Author Wendy Lawton inspires young girl readers by portraying the life of a girl who makes God an active part of her life and makes a difference while she’s still young. (Ages 8-12.)

Seekers of the Lost Boy, by Taryn Hayes. Set in Cape Town, South Africa, this young adult novel explores the history of apartheid through the eyes of a homeschool family. The Christian gospel message is masterfully woven into this unique tale, along with vivid descriptions of South African life. (Ages 10-16.) Read a review of this book at

Iraq: The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq, by Jeanette Winter. When war threatens to destroy Alia’s precious library collection, which includes rare editions, she bravely works to move 30,000 volumes to safety. This true story reminds us how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. (Ages 4-7.)

icdlHow would you like to have access to a free online public library of children’s books from around the world for kids 3 to 13? You can, if you just visit the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL). The Library’s books include books selected and digitized by The Library of Congress, as well as children’s books selected by international librarians and new books from publishers and authors. The ICDL Foundation’s goal is to build a collection of books that represents outstanding historical and contemporary books from throughout the world. Ultimately, the Foundation aspires to have every culture and language represented so that every child can know and appreciate the riches of children’s literature from the world community — by making the best in children’s literature available online free of charge.

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