Sharing books for kids about cultural diversity with your class or family is a terrific way to start a conversation about identity. 21 March is Harmony Day in Australia – a day of action and awareness-raising events, designed around the slogan ‘Everyone Belongs’. Everyone deserves a chance to celebrate their own culture and learn to appreciate other languages and lifestyles. Picture books have a special way of delivering a complex message in simple terms that encourage sharing and inclusion. Here are some new titles to consider!
I’m Australian Too by Mem Fox & Ronojoy Ghosh
Scholastic AU RRP: $19.99AUD
Mem Fox is one of Australia’s best-loved children’s authors with a string of recognisable titles to her name, including Possum Magic and Where Is The Green Sheep? Her latest book is a celebration of Australia’s cultural diversity, told through lively rhyming language and joyful illustrations.
The book emphasises that every Australian has a cultural story to tell. Maybe your mum is from Adelaide and your dad is from Perth? Or maybe your Grandma is from England but your Nonno came from Italy? You might be part of a mob that goes way back; or you might have just arrived from a war torn land. Whatever your story – we can all call Australia home.
You can listen to a reading of the story at Mem Fox’s website here.
I Love You by Xiao Mao & Tang Yun
New Frontier Publishing RRP: $24.99AUD
One way in which children make sense of cultural difference is by comparing other lifestyles and languages to their own. Sharing stories about the ‘little things’ – the way different people do food, clothes, school routines and other such day to day moments – can be a great source of enlightenment for curious kids. In I Love You, Little Badger’s teacher Ms Giraffe shares some new words with the class on her whiteboard. ‘Ti amo’, she writes. Then ‘je t’aime’…’ich liebe dich’…’wo ai ni’ – the words are all different, but they mean the same thing: I love you.
Little Badger goes home and tests out these new words at every opportunity. Ti amo little tree! Wo ai ni clouds! Je t’aime underpants! In a deceptively simple story, Little Badger accepts and celebrates diversity by learning that every culture understands love – they just express it in different ways. The book also showcases the way that children are unafraid to play with language and can find it easier to be multilingual than adults.
Xiao Mao is an accomplished Chinese writer, whilst Tang Yun is an emerging Chinese illustrator. I Love You was released in Chinese in 2013, but arrives in Australia in English in April 2017.
Need more ideas? Check out this list of cultural diversity books I wrote about for Families Magazine awhile back. Happy Harmony Day!