Raising my children to be world citizens is equally as important as raising kind kids in my household. It is important to give our children a broad sense of the world we live in and the opportunity to fall in love with the diversity of the people, places and cultures on our beautiful planet. We actively seek opportunities to introduce them to stories that center children from other lands. When it comes to raising world citizens, well-chosen global kids books can be a valuable tool. They are especially important if your family, like ours, isn’t hopping on planes to travel the world right now.
There are so many wonderful global kids books to choose from! This is the start of a Seacoast Moms article series focused on finding and sharing these books. The focus here is to find books to launch your child’s global journey through literature. These books are great to keep on hand as you continue travel the world with your little world citizens.
Global Kids Books for the Early Years
Even babies can recognize different faces and research shows by three months, they start showing a preference for faces similar to their own. It is never too early to start introducing our little ones to the beauty of diversity. My favorite book for this age is Global Babies created by the Global Baby Fund. This book contains gorgeous photos and a lovely message, it’s a good pick for read aloud or tummy time.
Once kiddos start moving around, it is great to choose a more interactive book. My favorite piece of global literature for this age group is Whole World by Christopher Corr and Fred Penner. This one is a read aloud that is also a singalong. It is a well done retooling of the old spiritual song. By secularizing the lyrics and adding fun, diverse illustrations Corr and Penner make the song accessible for all families. The message that our world is in our hands is an important idea to integrate our children with as soon as they can comprehend this. You and your kiddo can keep reading, singing and moving to this one right into their early elementary school years.
Where in the World?
World Atlas by Nick Crane is a valuable tool to have on hand when you dive into global kids books. You can find the places you will be reading about on the maps before you start the story. This beautiful atlas is perfect for kids to browse on their own.
The concepts of towns, states, countries, continents and the world can be too abstract for children preschool or younger. Me on a Map by Joan Sweeney is a more comprehensible book for this younger age group. It shows where a child is in their bedroom, home, neighborhood, town, state and country. This book is a good read for preschool through elementary aged children.
Similarities and Differences
It is important to show young children the diversity of the world as well as its interconnectedness. Their lived experiences revolve around local things like their families, neighborhoods and schools. To widen their perspective it is imperative to read books that help them recognize their place in the global community. Stories that highlight the similarities and differences between cultures and places are the perfect starting point for this.
If you pick just one book from this list, let it be Children of the World by Kate DePalma. This oversized volume shows a wonderful array of children from countries and cultures all over the world. The bright pictures and text cover topics such as homes, food, school, play, clothing, travel, family, money, language and more. Children will see familiar things and will come away with a better sense of the global community. There is a broad audience for this book. You can enjoy it with your toddler as well as older children.
One World, One Day by Barbara Kerley published by National Geographic is another title perfect for exploring similarities and differences. This book follows children from around the globe as they engage in daily tasks like eating, traveling, going to school and playing. This one may be hard to find new, but you should be able to find it at your library or from an online used bookseller.
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman is a fun and whimsical read that shows how truly connected we are to a global community. This story traces the ingredients from a very American apple pie around the globe.
Introducing Global Kids Books to Older Children
With older world citizens you can skip some of the basics and dive right into a deeper exploration of the world. In future posts, I will cover more global kids books to expose your older children to a multitude of cultures from around the world. For now you can keep beautifully illustrated volumes in your home for them to explore independently. This will give your child a good foundation for when you start sharing more stories with them. World Atlas and Book of Children mentioned above are perfect for laying this groundwork. Amazing Places by Miralda Colombo is also bound to capture their eye and attention. The photographs and art in these books are the key, but some offbeat facts like those in Strange But True!: Our Weird, Wild, Wonderful World will also draw in lots of kids.
Next month, I will have more literary suggestions for your family to explore together, but if you can’t wait I suggest you grab a copy of Give Your Child the World by Jamie C. Martin. It has been a great resource for me as I discover tales from around the world to share with my children at home.