Books have always been important in my life. Ever since I can remember, I have loved to read. I have vivid memories of getting lost in books like Ramona the Pest, A Wrinkle in Time, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on. Books have such a way of transporting you. Of showing you things you’ve never seen. Of showing you the world, whether its this world or one imagined by the author. So it’s only natural that I pass this love of reading onto my children. It’s not coming from my husband-reading a magazine about the latest BMW engine is his idea of heavy reading. (There is always a stack of car magazines in every bathroom in our house.) Thankfully, they’ve responded. I’ve tried to incorporate into their library books that are of educational value. Books that teach a lesson. Books that broaden their horizons. I have this vision of my children being so ahead of the curve by the time they get to kindergarten their teacher says to me: “Oh my, Mrs. Lee-your children are so intelligent and well-read! It must be from all of those wonderful books you’ve been reading to them.” Unfortunately, my daughter now only reaches for books about Dora (puke) and Barbie (double puke). As hard as I try…. sigh…. But the reality is that after reading like a gazillion books with the line “Swiper, no swiping” (really???), the teacher will most likely pull me aside and say “Mrs. Lee-your daughter is hoarding all of her pencils and folders for fear some kleptomaniac fox is going to steal them. Do you know what this is about? Oh, and she talks to her her backpack and refuses to take it off. Like ever.” Parenting win. No, really, we do read a lot of different kinds of books. My favorite ones are the ones that show diversity. The ones that show that not all people look the same. That there are different skin colors. Different eye shapes. Different religions. Different ways of doing things. I think that lesson is one of the best ones I can teach my children. That the world is diverse. And to accept things that are different from them. My kids are, in fact, a minority (I am Caucasian and my husband is Korean), and it’s good for them to see other people that look like them, and people that look nothing like them. And know that it doesn’t matter. (side note-we recently had gifted to us a “Korean” Barbie. She really looks like NJ Housewife Barbie who spent too much time in the tanning salon. Is ‘Korean’ that hard to pull off???) One of the ways I can do that is through books. I’ve rounded up some of my favorite books for kids that show them the wonderful world that they live in. And that there is no fox stalking them waiting to steal their stuff.
Rama and Sita. My kids became captivated with this story after seeing it read on Nick Jr. (I probably could have come up with something that sounded way better than that) It’s an ancient Hindu legend with princes and princesses, evil kings and monsters. It’s a book that teaches morals. And it’s beautiful.
The Story of Ferdinand. I adore this book, and it’s one of my son’s favorites. It’s about a docile bull named Ferdinand who lives in Spain, who is like no other bull around him. He likes to lie under his favorite tree and smell the flowers, while all the other bulls like to fight each other. There’s a lovely lesson here with some Spanish culture.
For me, this one’s a no-brainer for my kids. They’re just starting to understand what being Korean is, and what a great way to instill their culture in them. I recently discovered this on Amazon and have since ordered it.
Kiki and Coco in Paris. This book is responsible for my daughter’s love of all things Paris-related. She’s obsessed with the Eiffel Tower and thinks that all electrical towers are “Eiffel” towers. It’s the story of a girl named Kiki and her doll Coco who travel to Paris, and about all the places they see while they’re there. The photography is absolutely beautiful and I just love when my daughter asks me to read her this one.
This is New York takes you on a tour of the city’s famous ethnic neighborhoods and introduces little ones to the history and culture of one of the most amazing cities in the world. Love, love, love.
Pea Boy and Other Stories from Iran. A lovely book of beautiful fairy tales from Iran. It’s truly fascinating to see how another culture tells stories.
The Family of Man is a stunning book of photographs from countries all around the world. It’s a great way to show children just how diverse this world truly is. Disclaimer: if you’re not prepared to explain what “boobies” are, steer clear. It gets a bit National Geographic.
The Family Book is a must for anyone whose family is “different.” If your family has two mommies, people of different races/cultures, single-parent families or anything that’s not considered traditional, this book is for you. If all children would read this book, I think the future would be a much more accepting one. Come to think of it, we should ALL read this book.
So while I’m grateful to Dora for teaching my kids some Spanish, (they both call out “rojo!!!!!” or “verde!!!!!” at traffic lights), I really wish they’d put that crap down and stick to reading these. I don’t want their teachers to think I suck.