The Otto Foundation believes that every child should have access to books that celebrate their cultural identity and the cultural identity of others. Today, we acknowledge the books, authors, illustrators and publishers who help make our library bookshelves more colourful and culturally diverse.
Stories are potent teaching (and learning) tools. Stories can dismantle the power structures and soften the dichotomy between adults and children - both in learner-teacher, and child-caregiver relationships. Reading a story with a child creates a third-person narrative which allows children to feel like they are discovering the information themselves.
"Oral storytelling is uniquely potent for helping a child make
meaning of some of the biggest themes in life."
- Silke Rose West
On the last Friday of January every year, the international community celebrates Multicultural Children's Book Day. This day gives children's book lovers a moment to reflect on the fact that the books we introduce children to can impact their cultural norms and expand their worldview by creating empathy and understanding for diverse perspectives and cultures.
"The images of things impress themselves in our minds.
What we look at determines what we see, and what we see
becomes part of our inner museum of references."
- Leon Battista Alberti
In our Libraries
To cultivate a deeper understanding of Multicultural Children's Book day in our libraries, we will be covering The Proudest Blue (by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali) with our foundation phase learners and Born a Crime (by Trevor Noah) with our Intermediate Phase learners. We have also curated a reading list with diverse books - encouraging children to explore the theme of multiculturalism on their own as well.
The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali
On the topic of Cultural Diversity, author of The Proudest Blue and Olympic Medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad shares:
"I wanted to tell this beautiful story so that children of colour would see two sisters taking pride in hijab and know that the parts of ourselves that might make us appear 'different' are worth celebrating. So that children of colour, Muslims, and both (like me) know they aren't alone and that there are many out there with a shared experience."
Before reading the story to a class, we start our conversational foundation by asking children a few questions:
What is culture?
What is multiculturalism?
Can you name some examples of different cultures?
What is your culture? What defines your culture?
What culture is the character of the book from? Do you know anyone from that culture?
The Proudest Blue is a wonderfully rich resource to use on Multicultural Children's Book Day! One can cover the following themes based on the storyline:
Respect for all people
Self-Esteem and Self-Acceptance
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
A good sense of cultural identity helps children feel more positive about themselves and more open-minded towards people different from themselves. Born a crime teaches (with great sensitivity, honesty and humour) about multiculturalism and how to develop a positive self-image.
Trevor unpacks the struggles of growing up in a country with a complicated history and how it shaped his view of culture and his sense of self.
"it was interesting being in a country where the law defined me as one race" — and by how others labeled him. "For so long people wanted to define me as whatever they wanted to define me as. I think that clarity for me came from understanding my existence and then looking at the world around me,"
This book is a great tool and can be used to discuss themes of
place, language and belonging
cultural stereotypes and othering
confidence and mentorship
Our Multicultural Children's Book Day Activity Sheet and Reading List:
Here are a few of the books that we think can be great conversation-starters with children around the themes of cultural identify, respect for difference, and the beauty of our shared humanity. Our activity sheet includes a book review template to help children reflect and capture learnings.