Windows & Mirrors: Choosing Multicultural Children’s Books

Windows & Mirrors: Choosing Multicultural Children's Books | Multicultural Kid Blogs

As parents and teachers, we’re skilled at choosing books with quality story lines that bring valuable lessons to our kids’ lives. Now is the time to make choosing multicultural children’s books – an area of literature that has long been neglected – a top priority when selecting books for your home and classroom.

We Need More Multicultural Children’s Books

Book page featuring diverse characters

Of the 3,700 children’s books reviewed by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in 2017, only 25% featured non-white characters. While this is an improvement over the 10% published in 2014, clearly publishers still have a long way to go. To improve these numbers, we can encourage schools, libraries, and bookstores to stock their shelves with more high-quality books featuring diverse characters.

Which Books to Choose?

Take your book-selecting skills, and use them to hone in on multicultural books. You already know to seek out characters that serve as good role models, but now focus on books that feature diverse characters who challenge stereotypes with positive, realistic representations of people in the real world. Look for story lines that have universal appeal, with an exciting plot that will get your students enthusiastic about reading.

Look for Books that are “Windows”

Page from the multicultural bilingual children's book "Handa's Hen"

Books are like windows because they allow us to gaze meaningfully into other worlds. There are no limits to where stories can go, so why not choose books that take us into the lives of people who appear very different from us, at least on the surface? Books are an excellent opportunity for kids to immerse themselves in places or lives very different than their own. They help them to understand another person’s life, thoughts, and experiences.

By simply turning a page, children can expand their knowledge and appreciation of lives that are very different from their own. Perhaps most importantly, it lessens the sense of “otherness,” and increases compassion and empathy. These are all building blocks to a world that embraces diversity.

Look for Books that are “Mirrors”

Books are like mirrors because they give us an opportunity to understand ourselves better. By reading about characters we relate to who are going through similar experiences, we are also exploring our own feelings and behavior. What does this person’s story teach me about my own life?

It can be disheartening for non-white students to read an endless line of books featuring only white characters. Students in diverse classrooms get a boost in self-esteem when they read books with multi-ethnic characters that genuinely reflect their lives.

Mirrors & Windows – One and the Same

The beauty behind reading more multicultural children’s stories is that the “mirror” and “window” become one and the same. By becoming familiar with the life of the “other,” kids eventually come to realize that there is no such thing. Instead, they see that we are all much more alike than different.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Want to help get more diverse, multicultural children’s books out into the world? Support Multicultural Children’s Book Day on January 25, 2019 with free resources and a classroom kit offered on their website. And be sure to use #ReadYourWorld on social media and spread the word!

Use #ReadYourWorld on January 25, 2019 for Multicultural Children's Book Day

Do you have a favorite multicultural book? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

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Multicultural Children's Book Day

Welcome to our 6th annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day! Here’s how to celebrate:

  1. Link up your diversity book reviews below.
  2. Join us tonight at our 6th annual Twitter Party! Follow @McChildsBookDay to join in on the diverse book discussions, discover new titles and authors and for a chance to win one of our twelve book bundles. Party time is 9 pm to 10 pm EST. RSVP here. Use hashtag: #ReadYourWorld.
  3. Get your copy of our diverse kidlit book recommend-packed ebook, Read Your World: A Guide to Multicultural Children’s Books for Parents and Educators. It’s FREE today through January 31st!
  4. We want to extend a huge THANK YOU to all of the Sponsors, Authors, Publishers, Organizations, Book Reviewers, Book Donators, Parents, Caregivers, Educators and Librarians who devote their time and energy to helping us to achieve our mission of getting multicultural children’s and YA books into the hands of readers. We appreciate you!

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Anneke Forzani founded Language Lizard ( to provide educators, librarians, and parents with resources that develop literacy skills among English Language Learners, build inclusive classrooms, and celebrate cultural diversity. Language Lizard offers bilingual books in over 50 languages, multilingual audio resources, multicultural posters, and free lesson plans to support multicultural classrooms. The company also runs a blog ( for parents and teachers working with language learners and culturally diverse students. Anneke is the author of Building Bridges with Bilingual Books and Multicultural Resources (a manual to support culturally responsive teaching) and With Flying Colors: Color Idioms (a multicultural idiom book).
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