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Resources for Exploring Culture with Children

March 13, 2024

I grew up in a small Midwest rural farming community in the late 1970s and early 1980s. There wasn’t a lot of racial diversity in our community; there were one or two Latino families, and that was about it. My exposure to different perspectives and cultures was limited; however, one thing that we received at school that opened my eyes to world events was the Scholastic Weekly Reader.

We would read the Weekly Reader to learn about current events, the news, and other children around the world. It was a newspaper from a kid’s perspective. Through stories and pictures, it created an awareness of global differences. 

Today’s news stories focus on the differences among religions, ethnic groups, and cultures, causing wars and conflicts worldwide. This news can cause children and young people to be highly anxious about the state of the world. We need to seek resources to help our children understand our differences and create acceptance for those differences.

When I taught Social and Emotional Learning in elementary classrooms, I brought books that helped me discuss SEL skills and illustrated different cultures, ethnicities, races, and abilities. When talking about ways to handle anger, I read the book Ahn’s Anger by Gail Silver. Ahn, with the help of his grandfather, revolves his anger constructively. Another book with the same character by Silver, Steps, and Stones, helps children hear about a different way to deal with feeling left out and angry. I highly recommend both of these books for an elementary classroom.

Great organizations work with educators, caregivers, and parents to create environments for belonging. AmazeWorks is an organization that works to develop anti-biased educators. They are working to create the conditions for belonging and equity for all. Sign up for their newsletter, and you can receive free anti-bias lessons that have literature connections plus journal prompts, discussion questions, and extension activities to go with the book. They have an anti-bias curriculum for preschool through middle school ages.

Open Circle is a comprehensive, whole-school social and emotional learning (SEL) program for elementary schools. I have taught the Open Circle lessons in the classroom, and you can find sample lessons on their website. One of the things that I liked about the lessons was the connection to literature. Open Circle website has a great list of literature connections for addressing the topics of social awareness, relationship skills, and self-awareness. The list of books shares the topics from different perspectives. You can find the literature list here on their website.

One resource that I am associated with is Spiritual Playdate. Spiritual Playdate offers fun and engaging social and emotional learning and Peace Education tools for use by parents, teachers, caregivers, social workers, grandparents, and faith educators with children aged five and above. The lessons offer connections to a diverse range of literature plus activities, affirmations, discussion questions, and mindfulness meditations. 

I am a member of Spiritual Playdate’s advisory board. I have invited Spiritual Playdate’s founder and Chief Visionary Officer, Edwina Cowell, to discuss the resources for children that Spiritual Playdate can offer educators, therapists, social workers, caregivers, and parents. The free webinar will be on Wednesday, March 27, at 7:00 p.m. Central time. If you are interested in the webinar, register HERE.

Why is it important to have diverse books in the classroom?

Books are both the mirrors and windows for children. The books read to and by children offer valuable opportunities to mirror our students’ languages, cultures, histories, and voices. Books can also provide a window through which a wide range of diverse stories reflect different perspectives and experiences. When we expose children to books that are mirrors and windows into the world, they can grow up with a broader understanding of themselves, their classmates, and the world.