A Picture Book List For Diwali

This is part of a series on writing booklists about holidays beyond Christmas. To read more about it, you can see it here.

Welcome to our list of favorite Diwali books! This holiday was a favorite of mine to research because of the colors involved with Diwali, making the illustrations in every book so fun! Here are my top four:

Festival of Colors by Kabir and Surishtha Sehgal

I love how this book is simple and on a child’s level, while still incorporating the Diwali jargon and vocabulary. It is also very inclusive of multiple races, showing that Diwali can be enjoyed by many! 

Lots of LIghts: A Story About Diwali by Kavita Sahai

This one is fun because elephants are the main characters that walk kids through what Diwali is, again, on their level. 

Rani Saves Diwali by Anita Badhwar

A princess saving Diwali! Such a fun book with cute illustrations. 

Binny’s Diwali by Thrity Umrigar

Binny is trying to tell her class about her favorite holiday, Diwali. And her peers love it!


What other Diwali books do you love reading to your class? How do you observe Diwali in your classroom or school?

Merry Christmas! But What About Other Holidays? We Need More Picture Book Representation

Friends, I’ve written a lot of posts about Christmas picture books, but there are many, many people who don’t celebrate Christmas and have a different holiday they observe. And while finding book lists for Christmas is easy, it’s a little more difficult to find picture books for other holiday celebrations such as Hannauka or Diwali. So over the next few weeks, I’ll be blasting you with book list after book list for these other holidays. 

I’ll be covering
Diwali
Hanukkah
Las Posadas
Chinese New Year
Winter Solstice
Kwanzaa
Three Kings Day

Typically, I don’t like to recommend books unless I’ve held them in the flesh or even on an eReader and read every page to know if it’s something I really want to share with friends. However, our little, local library has limited access to some of these holiday books. I made a friendly suggestion to our children’s librarian that we should add some of these new titles and she agreed and promised to do what she could! 

Because of this, I have had to get creative and watch read alouds on YouTube or do research on Goodreads on some of these picture books to make sure it is something I truly want to recommend to you. 

Another great resource I have found is this free printable of different holidays with QR codes to scan that you can share with your students to learn more about each holiday. 

So happy holidays and stay tuned for lots and lots of books that will help you teach your students about multiple holidays, not just Christmas! 

Learning Acceptance And Tolerance While Teaching Christmas Traditions

In 4th grade, I had this teacher who was nothing short of magnificent. She would get so excited about everything that just had a way of lighting a fire in everyone to learn. 4th grade, in my opinion, has some of the best curricula as well, state history! Since I grew up in Idaho she taught us all about Lewis and Clark, the pioneers, and the Appaloosa horse, our state horse. 

She also did a read-aloud every day after lunch. We would come in from recess, turn off the lights, and she would read to us as if we were in the story ourselves. I distinctly remember her reading Earthquake Terror and being so terrified myself because I was convinced I was in the water with these two siblings holding onto logs for dear life. Because of her, I will always 

One of my favorite units she taught was about Christmas around the world. It wasn’t required curriculum to teach, especially now with common core state standards, but something she felt was important to include in her teaching each December. Looking back, I am realizing it didn’t just teach us what each country saw Santa Claus as, but also taught us inclusion. Tolerance. Diversity. Loving. Acceptance. And more. 

Here is a great article on a few things I learned about Swiss Christmas.

We spent time researching multiple countries, what they ate around the holidays, traditions they have, and the values they held close. At the end of the unit, we had one big potluck of each type of food that we were even able to try ourselves! Talk about exposure to culture! I also want you to understand that I grew up in the sticks of Idaho. Ucon, Idaho to be exact. In Ucon, there was one elementary school, and then we had to “go into town” to attend Jr. High and high school. It was and still is, a farming community with very little diversity. So my teacher taking the time to teach us culture and give us exposure to something different was huge. 

I’m grateful for a teacher that took the effort to give us these opportunities and teach us beyond the test, especially in the early 2000s when being less aware of others was more common. I am not sure if she is still teaching to this day, but if she is, I cannot imagine the impact she is making on this world, given the impact she had in just my life. 

The Importance Of Students Having A Global Perspective

We have our neighborhoods and communities that kids are aware of. 

We have schools that they know very well. 

The towns they grow up in are a part of them. 

Sometimes even the cities neighboring can be important in their lives as well. 

And of course, our own state has an impact on them. 

But what about moving beyond our states? Or even our nation? What is the importance of giving kids a global perspective? 

Teaching students about global affairs in an authentic way can teach them acceptance and understanding of cultures and others. It can allow them to feel more empathy as they learn more about the various types of living styles. It can open their eyes to see that their lifestyle isn’t how someone else lives. 

They might even have the chance to say, “Hey! This kid is just like me.” 

Having a mindset that our world goes beyond the walls of our schools or the lines of our states gives us millions of minds to collaborate with and help with finding solutions. We can start asking the important questions like, “Why is Singapore’s math curriculum working so well and how can we use it too?” 

There is a better chance they will end up in global careers by learning about them now. 

Students won’t just know about the Great Wall of China, they will understand the history and importance of it, as well as the impacts it has on China’s residents today. 

So start introducing other cultures in your classroom. Give your students the opportunity to interact and collaborate with other students across the globe, through email, skype, or social media. Break down the four walls of your school and the limits of your cities to show our future leaders what a global perspective looks like. 

Featured Image: Pexels.com

The Powerful Purpose Of Books About Other Cultures

Let’s talk about different races and ethnic backgrounds. It’s something that is a growing topic in our schools, as it should be. Why are these conversations important for students? Studies have shown that kids as young as 3 years old can start showing signs of racism, which can stem from the TV shows they are watching, the toys they play with, and the books they read. 

A few of my favorite books to expose children to these different cultures do not explicitly teach how to be tolerant of others, instead, they give you a peek into their worlds and what makes them special. It can be so powerful. 

CROW BOY is a book about a young boy who attends school in Japan that walks to and from school by himself every day for years and years. By the end of the book, his classmates see just how special Crow Boy is and what a mistake it was to ignore him all of those years. 

I, DOKO: THE TALE OF THE BASKET a story told by the basket a family uses for various purposes over the years, from carrying grain to carrying a baby. This book can become confusing with the different generations of family members, it may be beneficial to write or draw a visual of the family tree to help students understand who is who in the story. 

TUKI AND MOKA: A TALK OF TWO TAMARINS this book is sure to capture your students’ love with two monkeys that follow a little boy around in Ecuador as they collect Brazil nuts to provide for their family. Later, the monkeys and other animals are captured by poachers and the protagonist must take action right away. 

Not only do these books explore the lifestyle of different races and cultures, but they also teach vocabulary words from their language. This can be engaging for students and fun for students to learn these new words and names. A word of advice, before reading these books out loud in class, practice a few readings out loud by yourself to know the words and names pronunciation beforehand. 

Books are powerful. Whether read aloud in classrooms or left for little hands to explore, having ready access to different ethnicities through text and pictures will benefit them, our classrooms, schools, and our society. Our students and teachers can make or break someone else’s school experience based on their cultural awareness. If you don’t believe me, watch this Ted Talk by Melissa Crum. 

What are books you use in your classroom that expose children to different races, whether directly or indirectly? 

Featured Image: pexels.com

The Opportunities Afforded by Authenticity (aka, Watching Moana with My Kids) #TeacherMom

I know a Disney movie has nailed it for me when I find myself repeatedly playing the songs in my head without tiring of it. Moana was just such a film.

But what I loved even more than the strong characters, plot, and score was respectful care that went into representing Polynesian culture. A bonus features documentary shared the production crew’s visits and connections with the people of Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, and other islands, expressing the heartfelt desire to portray their culture in a way that would be authentic and recognizable. As one of the Tahitian cultural experts said,

“Our culture is very important for us because it’s the spirit, it’s the soul for our island. It carries values. It carries our life.” ~Hinano Murphy

The documentary highlighted many different cultural elements studied, including music, navigation, coconut use, tattoos, and more. But what really caught my 6 year-old’s attention was the Haka.

She was especially interested in the facial expressions and tongue waggling — in her experience, such behavior indicated silliness, but she sensed an alternate purpose.

So we watched a couple videos, including an emotional Haka performed at a wedding, and one the New Zealand All Blacks Team performs. We discussed the meaning, the unity, and the strength. We discussed sacred traditions within cultures, and how we should turn our hearts toward understanding rather than disdain when we encounter something we don’t initially understand.

I was proud of her respectful response. And not only did our discussion lead to her recognizing aspects of her own culture, but she was also able to make connections in subsequent days to other unfamiliar cultural gestures (such as kissing cheeks in greeting).

Had Disney not been as dedicated to an authentic representation of the culture, this learning opportunity would have been lost (or worse, she would have gained a skewed perspective).

To me, this was a reminder of the critical role of authenticity in education. Wherever possible, we must seek out the honest and shun the watered-down. Not only will this give our students a more accurate view of the world around them, but their learning experiences will be richer for it.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto