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Celebrate EVERYONE! 10 Books that Open Children's Hearts to the World

Photo by Lee Avison / Stocksy / 89604
Photo by Lee Avison / Stocksy United

By Rachel Ward

From the mountains of China to the savannahs of Africa, the world is filled with countless cultures, beliefs, and ways of life—all unique and beautiful. It’s never too early to teach children about the many different ways that people live, work, speak, and play, while also sharing all the things we humans have in common. 

Check out these 10 fabulous books that encourage understanding of people from all walks of life—and let your child’s literary travels begin!

Yum! Let's Eat! cover
Text copyright © 2009 by Thando Maclaren. Illustrations copyright © 2009 by Jacqueline East. Used by permission of Mantra Lingua. All rights reserved.

1. Yum! Let’s Eat! by Thando Maclaren

Age group: Toddler/Preschool

Chili peppers, curry, and couscous too—there’re so many unique foods and flavors that your little one probably hasn’t experienced yet! Available in several bilingual editions, this book highlights the different types of yummy cuisine that families eat all around the globe.

Swirling Hijaab cover
Text copyright © 2002 by Na'ima bint Robert. Illustrations copyright © 2002 by Nilesh Mistry. Used by permission of Mantra Lingua. All rights reserved.

2. The Swirling Hijaab by Na'ima bint Robert

Age group: Preschool

Introduce your little one to the basics of Islamic culture in this fun story about a girl playing with her mother’s head scarf, called hijaab. With a swish and a swirl, she’s transformed into a fierce warrior queen, then a nomad in the desert, and even a bride inside a tent!

To Be a Kid cover
To Be a Kid, Text Copyright © 1999 by Maya Ahjmera and John D. Ivanko, Photographs copyright © 1999 by Various Rightsholders. Used with permission by Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.

3. To Be a Kid by Maya Ajmera

Age group: Toddlers/Preschool

Celebrate what it’s like to be a kid no matter where you are in the world! This photographic book format captures moments with children from all over the world having fun, playing games, and spending time with loved ones. While the specifics may change from country to country, they’re all doing what they do best: being kids!

Elizabeti's Doll cover
Elizabeti’s Doll Text copyright © 1998 by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen Illustrations copyright © 1998 by Christy Hale Permission arranged with LEE & LOW BOOKS INC., New York, NY 10016.

4. Elizabeti’s Doll by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen

Age group: Preschool

Seeing her mother care for her new baby brother, Elizabeti wants to try parenting something too. She finds a rock and turns it into a doll that she holds, clothes, and feeds like her very own child. Set in Tanzania, this story gives kids a glimpse into East African culture, including how babies are carried in a kanga cloth and food is prepared outside of the home.

5. Smiling by Gwenyth Swain

Age group: Toddlers

What makes you smile? Reading this book certainly will! It’s chock full of photos of real people around the world and all the things that make them smile—from watching a parade to hamming it up with friends. No matter how different we all are, smiling is our universal language! 

Everybody Cooks Rice cover
"Everybody Cooks Rice" by Norah Dooley, illustrated by Peter J. Thornton. Copyright © 1991 by Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.

6. Everybody Cooks Rice by Norah Dooley

Age group: Preschool

Carrie’s brother is late for dinner! On her quest around the neighborhood looking for him, she finds that so many people in her community cook rice! Whether they’re from Barbados, Mexico, or Vietnam, this mealtime staple is the common denominator at the dinner table.

Margaret and Margarita cover
COPYRIGHT © 1993 BY LYNN REISER. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

7. Margaret and Margarita by Lynn Reiser

Age group: Toddlers

Margaret and Margarita meet each other at the park, but don’t speak the same language. Through patience and play they become fast friends—proving that language doesn’t need to be a barrier to making meaningful connections!

Hats Hats Hats cover
Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

8. Hats Hats Hats by Ann Morris

Age group: Toddlers

All over the world there are all types of hats that represent diverse cultures. These real-life photos of people in their unique hats will introduce kids to new people and places, and get them thinking about what makes us the same and different.

One Green Apple cover
Text copyright © 2006 by Edward D. Bunting and Anne E. Bunting Family Trust. Illustrations copyright © 2006 by Ted Lewin Ltd. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

9. One Green Apple by Eve Bunting

Age group: Preschool

When Farah and her family move to America from the Middle East, she suddenly feels like she doesn’t fit in. Some of her new classmates aren’t exactly welcoming, either. But on a field trip to the apple orchard, Farah and her classmates discover how variety can sweeten up life!

Dear Juno cover
Dear Juno by Soyung Pak. Illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung. Used by permission of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

10. Dear Juno by Soyung Pak

Age group: Preschool

They’re separated by an ocean and a language barrier, but Juno and his grandmother don’t let that stop them from forming a deep bond. Juno’s grandmother sends photos and small gifts to share details of her life in Korea, while Juno relays experiences about his own life through drawings.

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