Multicultural Books – What Are They?

The contemporary period of the 21st century gave rise to a technology that sought to connect people from all corners of the globe. Examples of these are social media platforms the majority of the world’s population are consuming and the ever-handy mobile phones. These pieces of technology pave the way for the realization of a global community where diversity is recognized, and every culture and society is acknowledged and respected for its uniqueness.

Multiculturalism is a reasonably new concept, and numerous organizations are working around the globe for people to embrace this new culture of inclusivity and acceptance. One of the best ways to promote this unique perspective on culture is to educate young children about it. The best and most popular medium where this message can be given to children is through the books that they read. 

Definitions of Multicultural Books

Multicultural books can be defined by naming some of their characteristics. Books are considered as multicultural when it presents a story where the characters include people of color and people from various cultural, social, and economic backgrounds. They are also often written in the point-of-view of the minority such as stories set in the U.S. but told in the perspective of Native Americans.

Multicultural books are written by authors that have come from a multicultural background and often experienced a life of being a minority. Their books often carry within them culture, traditions, beliefs, language, and traditions of the author’s society. Lastly, multicultural books are also characterized by having an open-minded and benevolent perspective when it comes to people with disabilities or special needs such as anxiety, ADHD, etc.

Examples of Multicultural Books for Children

Many authors have been championing multiculturalism in their written works, especially in the genre of children’s literature, where one of the main aims is to teach children about culture, society, and values. Published in 2002 by Scholastic, Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan talks about the story of a Mexican girl named Esperanza who was born to an affluent family of ranch owners. She lived a life of privilege, where she was used to having servants and beautiful dresses. However, tragedy and the Great Depression struck their family, and she found herself facing a hard life filled with personal struggles, financial difficulty, and hard labor.

Another example of a multicultural children’s book is Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe. The book is based on an African rendition of the Cinderella fairy tale where the conflict is between possessing internal and external beauty. The multicultural point of the book lies in its inclusion of the geography, history, and culture of the African nation of Zimbabwe.

Coming from the contemporary Asian literary tradition is Yangsook Choi’s book called The Name Jar. The 40-page book narrates the story of a young girl named Unhei, whose family migrated from Korea to the United States. When she was introducing herself to her new classmates, she refused to give her own name and exclaimed that she would choose her name by next week. The story highlights issues of identity and cultural pride in children born or raised in multicultural environments.