Help Your Child Discover our World through Books!

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As the calendar indicates the official end of school and the beginning of summer, many households are buzzing with plans to soak up the sun and enjoy some down time. While kids may be elated at the thought of no school, something that’s always on the mind of parents is the dreaded summer slide, a time when the lack of academic structure causes kids’ reading habits to backslide.

But there’s something new to keep in mind when choosing books to read. If keeping our kids’ reading during the off season isn’t challenging enough, there’s increasing awareness among parents, caregivers and educators that kids have access to books that allow them to “see themselves” within the pages. The phrase “mirrors and windows” in regard to children’s literacy was coined in the late 1990s by scholar and activist Rudine Sims Bishop to summarize the need for young readers to see stories that reflect their family dynamic, socioeconomic status, disability, ethnic origin and even religion.

Offering more multicultural and diverse books to our children and teens is an opportunity for them to be able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and learn about lives that are entirely different from theirs. It’s also a great way to encourage inclusion and compassion. Books on topics such as special needs, being a refugee and racism can open a child’s eyes to things that they may not understand or have experienced before.
Here are some diverse picture and chapter books that will give kids options for fun and inspiring books to keep them eagerly reading during the lazy months of summer.

Hair Love by Matthew Cherry, illustrations by Vashti Harrison, ages four to eight
This sweet book started as one author’s desire to “see more representation in children’s book while also wanting to normalize black hair.” The beautifully illustrated diverse picture book begins with young Zuri waking up and deciding that, because it is a very special day, she needs the perfect hairstyle. The young black girl thinks of the wondrous things her hair can do and how it reflects her personality. Readers will love how this little girl embraces her individuality while also relating to daddy’s struggles to tame the wild poof in mommy’s absence.

The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story by Aya Khalil, ages six to eight
This timely story is about a young immigrant girl named Kanzi and her struggles to adapt to a new school in America. Thankfully, Kanzi has some things that help console her when she’s feeling down: the soft quilt that her beloved grandmother made her and a love of poetry. When an astute teacher picks up on these things, she helps Kanzi, and Kanzi’s classmates, realize that having different customs and speaking a language other than English at home are favorable circumstances that enrich us all.

Mystery of the Naga Night by Lisa Travis, ages six to nine
Travis is one half of the mompreneur duo that has created the successful book series The Pack-n-Go Girls. Their mission has always been to make a difference by nurturing an adventurous spirit that inspires kids to go out and explore the world while infusing them with an insatiable thirst to learn. The newest book in the series takes besties Jess and Nong on a nail-biting mystery in a Thai village.

Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana Lopez, ages nine to twelve
It’s the summer before eighth grade, and Erica “Chia” Montenegro is feeling so many things that she needs a mood ring to keep track of her emotions. She’s happy when she hangs out with her best friend, Robin, but jealous that her genius little sister has skipped two grades. She’s also passionate about the crushes on her boyfriend wish list. And when Erica’s mom is diagnosed with breast cancer, she feels worried and doesn’t know what she can do to help.

Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith, YA
Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya, better known as popular streaming gamer D1V, regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent. All seems to be going well until the virtual harassment starts and begins to threaten Divya’s offline world.

Communities across the U.S. are becoming more diverse by the day. With that comes a need for representation and inclusion in the books that are added to home and classroom bookshelves. Our world is filled with amazing cultures, foods, traditions, music, religions and ethnicities, so it only seems right that we introduce our young readers to this vibrant world through the pages of the books they read. ■

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