Multicultural Children’s Books: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature

Native American Books for Kids- Kid World CitizenRecent census data that shows that the demographics of the US population consists of 37% people of color– yet only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. The reasons to share multicultural literature with our kids are endless. Founders of the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries. 60+ bloggers are joining together to share multicultural books from around the world: here are the 4 lovely books I reviewed featuring Native American culture.

4 Multicultural Children’s Books that Feature Native American History

Wisdom Tales Press is one of the gracious sponsors of this event on multicultural children’s books. They are a children’s book imprint of World Wisdom, and aim to sharing the wisdom and beauty of cultures around the world with young readers and their families- especially American Indian titles. In fact, all royalties from their books on the American Indians are donated to various native charities that include: The Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian, The American Indian College Fund, the purchase of books for schools on reservations, and the direct support of sacred tribal ceremonies.

These selected books on Native American culture make history come alive- the stories are unforgettable, and contain such detail that you will learn more at each subsequent reading. Wisdom Tales has a tremendous selection of resources for teachers, and activities for children, and I have linked up below lessons and activities for each book of the 4 books we read:

Otter the Spotted Frog and the Great Flood- Kid World CitizenThe first book we read was The Otter, the Spotted Frog & the Great Flood: A Creek Indian Story, an origin/creation story by Gerald Hausman. This Creek American Indian tale is appropriate for K-5. Based on a traditional story, some believe that parts of Genesis have been woven into this story of The Great Flood and the first man and woman. The Noah figure in this case is a river otter, while the figure who prophesies the flood is the spotter frog. This book would work well when learning about folktakes and other creation legends, offering s perspective not often included in units on fairytales.

Don’t miss the Classroom Discussion Guide, the Otter coloring page, and the trailer:

Man Who Dreamed of Elk Dogs- Kid World CItizenThe next book we reviewed was the award-winning book The Man Who Dreamed of Elk Dogs: & Other Stories from Tipi by the talented Paul Goble. This anthology of 23 traditional stories from the Plains Indians is an excellent reference book for teachers who use literature in history and social studies to demonstrate authentic, cultural stories and mythology. In this one book, we can read transcribed oral stories from the Blackfoot, Lakota, Assiniboin, Pawnee, Winnebago, Omaha, Hidatsa, and Cheyenne nations about themes such as how elk-dogs (horses) came to the Plains, and the search for buffalo. The true lesson for our children is the subtle values of sustainability and how interconnected we are with Mother Nature.  Make a tipi from these printables (here and here), and view a map of the tribes of the Plains here.

Children of the Tipi Life in the Buffalo Days- Kid World CitizenIn line with fictional stories of The Man Who Dreamed of Elk Dogs, the next book be the perfect companion to offer a look at how American Indian children on the Plains lived, learned, and played. Children of the Tipi: Life in the Buffalo Days, edited by Michael Oren Fitzgerald offers us a collection of stunning photographs and quotes from American Indian chiefs that cover topics ranging from daily life, music and dance, tipis, living in nature, and more. Reading this book is akin to visiting a magnificent museum: after reading the accounts of life on the Plains, readers linger on the page soaking in over 100+ snapshots of the artifacts and daily scenes of life before reservations. If there is one improvement I wish they could make in future editions, I would love for the pictures to be labelled with the distinctions of tribes and locations. The Plains Indians were stretched from the Southwest up to Canada, and with so many different nations represented, I would like to see them distinguished in the pictures. That being said, I think all school libraries should have this book in their history section.

Don’t miss the discussion guide from the publisher.

Custer's Last Battle Goble- Kid World CitizenCuster’s Last Battle: Red Hawk’s Account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Caldecott-winning author Paul Goble (again!) is such an incredible resource for teachers who are covering the period of US history of westward expansion. Told by a fictional Lakota teen, the story is based on the accounts of American Indian survivors of the Battle Little Bighorn in 1876. Led by their greatest chiefs, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, the warriors fight against the 700 attacking soldiers, who were led by General Custer.  I wish that this incredibly powerful book was required reading for students of US history- to show a perspective that is often ignored. That being said, this book is an account of a battle in a terrible war, and (delicately) discusses the violence and suffering of men and animals; it should be previewed first. Amazon lists the ages as 4-8, though this incredible story is more suitable for 8- adult. Readers will pore over the amazing illustrations, which Paul Goble did in the style of “ledger-book:” we are told in the author’s introduction that this is name given to early Native American drawings done when pens and colored pencils were used for the first time in traders’ ledger books. The original illustrations can be found in the South Dakota Art Museum.

Don’t miss the great discussion questions offered by the publisher.

Would you like to see more titles of great Multicultural Children’s Books? Celebrating Diversity in #KidLit

Multicultural Children’s Book Day: January 27, 2014

Mission: To raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, and to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.

Co-creators:  Mia Wenjen is the mom to 3 who blogs excessively about children’s and YA books on Pragmatic Mom (one of my absolute favorite web sites!).  Valarie Budayr is also the mom to 3, writes Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press and shares their book-loving moments and adventures, incorporating them into their everyday lives through play, crafting, cooking, movies, games, traveling, and author visits.

Incredible Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books, Chronicle Books, and Susan Daniel Fayad: Author of  My Grandfather’s Masbaha.  

60+ wonderful bloggers enthusiastically agreed to review and promote multicultural children’s books for this special event. See all of their reviews curated on the Multicultural Children’s Book Day pinterest board.

We’re inviting you to mention your favorite multicultural children’s books in the comments!

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  1. says

    Thank you so much Becky for your wonderful review of four incredible books about Native Americans. I’m so glad you’re joining us for Multicultural Children’s Book Day as well. Happy Reading !!

  2. says

    Hi! I’d love to read all these books, the stories seem interesting and the drawings are just excellent. I wonder if they have been translated into Spanish, I’d love to translate them! Best regards from Barcelona,

  3. stanleyandkatrina says

    These look fantastic. I love learning history from picture books and you have a great list here about Native Americans. Happy #MCKLitDay!
    ~Cool Mom
    for The Stanley & Katrina Gang

  4. says

    Great idea and article! I know growing up white in a mostly white area, my parents made sure I read books with a diversity of American characters because books are a main way we learn about the world. Wish there was more diversity in children’s literature out there though. I love the list!

  5. says

    I love historical fiction and am so happy you are reviewing books for all age groups about Native Americans. I have been fascinated with Native Americans since a child, so I’d enjoy all of your selections. Will check them out.


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