Back in 2014 when this blog was only a few months old and I was trying to find my voice, a blogger that I followed announced that she and another blogger were starting a day of awareness for multicultural children’s books. The reasoning behind this was because so many of the books available for children showed a very monochromatic view of the world. As a Jew living in the rural south not able to find the same selections of books that I would have while living in Los Angeles or New York, the notion truly hit home. I jumped on board and have never looked back.
Since then, it turns out that I seem to be oddly drawn to multicultural texts, but I do realize that they are not the norm and that not all children are exposed to them. A big reason behind starting Multicultural Children’s Book Day was because more kids should be able to see themselves in the books that they read as children. I agree with that, but I also see that unless children are exposed to other cultures and ideas, they don’t always realize that people who are different than they are exist. I desperately want my children to understand that there is a large world out there and we all need to respect and hopefully try to understand all of the different ways of thinking.
This year, I was sent an absolutely beautiful book called The Cambodian Dancer: Sophany’s Gift of Hope by Daryn Reicherter. This book was inspired by the true story of Sophany Bay, a dancer in Cambodia who had to escape the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s.
The book does not focus on the negativity of the Khmer Rouge, but instead focuses on Sophany and her love of dance. The beautiful illustrations by Christy Hale bring the reader to Cambodia. The dancers clothing and costumes during performances depict the culture and the importance of the traditional dance in their history.
Then after the Khmer Rouge came, beautiful shadow puppets are utilized to show the sadness that people felt in a way to soften the blow and to show how devoid of emotion Sophany felt. As the pages say, “Many of the dancers disappeared. Those who were left behind became as shadow puppets, secret and saddened.” As the author’s note in the back of the book explains, the Khmer Rouge took away the arts, culture, religion and education. And “Sophany was forced to move far away,” or escape as the case may be.
In America, it saddened Sophany that young Cambodian children did not know the dances of her lost home. “She remembered the dance that was forced into hiding,” and decided to teach it to the next generation. Teaching children again gave her back her happiness and a sense of joy in her life and helped keep her culture alive.
Talking to children about horrible things that have happened in other countries is incredibly difficult. Each year, I struggle to talk to my Hebrew School class about the Holocaust, even though each year that they grow older, they are able to understand it on a better level. My children know that historically the Jews have struggled with persecution, but we are not the only ones by far. Showing situations like what happened in Cambodia can help make some sense of what is going on in Syria for them now. This book was a beautiful depiction of how people went through an absolutely horrifying situation and still were able to find beauty in the world and keep their culture alive.
Interestingly, at the end of December I also read the book Never Fall Down, by Patricia McCormick. It is the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond who defied the odds to survive the Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979 and the labor camps of the Khmer Rouge. Definitely aimed at a much older audience then The Cambodian Dancer, Never Fall Down also expertly tells the story of what happened in an accessible, if sometimes painful way
It is through these stories that we learn things. I don’t remember learning much at all about what happened in Cambodia as a child, expect for seeing the Disney movie “The Girl who Spelled Freedom.” Similarly, many people have strong memories of the Diary of Ann Frank. Books that show the strong spirit of those impacted by these horrible experiences are spectacular for everyone to read.
The following is everything you need to know about Multicultural Children’s Book Day. There are a world of wonderful bloggers who post great lists of multicultural books all year round and some truly fabulous publishing houses who bring these marvelous books to the public.
Our mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.
The Multicultural Children’s Book Day mission to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.
Multicultural Children’s Book day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors! #ReadYourWorld
Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 12 amazing Co-Host and you can use the links below or view them here.
All Done Monkey, Crafty Moms Share,Educators Spin on it,Growing Book by Book,Imagination Soup,I’m Not the Nanny,InCultural Parent, Kid World Citizen,Mama Smiles,Multicultural Kid Blogs,Spanish Playground
This year there is an additional part of the celebration – The Classroom Reading Challenge. This very special offering from MCCBD offers teachers and classrooms the chance to (very easily) earn a free hardcover multicultural children’s book for their classroom library. These books are not only donated by the Junior Library Guild, but they are pre-screened and approved by them as well.
Connect with MCCBD on Facebook
Connect with MCCBD on Twitter #ReadYourWorld
For additional multicultural dance books, check out this post by MCCBD founder Mia Wengren.
I am also including this in my challenge to myself to post weekly about non-fiction titles thanks to the blog Kid Lit Frenzy. These books are not truly non-fiction, but I felt that they are true to the spirit on non-fiction and they encourage young children to delve deeper into the non-fiction. Check out more great non-fiction titles there.