Hanna Kahler was a Lydia’s House volunteer a few years back. When she asked if she could share some thoughts on reading to kids and book recommendations for the shelter, we said an emphatic “yes!” The following are her thoughts, focused on multicultural books, and there’s even a book list at the end if you’d like to donate a book to Lydia’s House.
By Hanna Kahler
My entire life, I have loved reading books. I have warm memories of waking up early as a preschooler & snuggling on the living room couch with my mom, quietly reading picture books together until my two sisters woke up & the chaos of the day started. As the middle child in a busy family, reading with my mom was my consistent, special 1:1 time with her. I loved the coziness.
After college, I worked as a full-time nanny for several years. I carried my love of
reading into my work with the young children that I cared for. We regularly trekked to the library for story times & sought out books about topics that interested them. I read the same books on repeat until I could have recited them backwards in my sleep.
I started to attend conferences about child development & started learning more about the formal, academic benefits of reading together. Reading together builds a young child’s vocabulary, nurtures an adult-child connection, encourages perspective-taking, & helps to grow a child’s emotional intelligence. I learned the term “dialogic reading” (which essentially means having a conversation with a young child about the book that you’re reading together—things like asking them “Can you point to the bear’s red rain boots?” Or “Why do you think the elephant is feeling sad?”).
I started giving some of my childhood favorite books to my nanny charges as birthday or holiday gifts. My longest-term nanny position was with an Indian-American family…& I started to think about what kinds of books I wanted my nanny kiddo to have on her bookshelves. I wanted her to have books with characters who looked like her, who had names similar to hers & who celebrated holidays that her family celebrated. While attending the Nannypalooza conference, the remarkable Nanny Miss Monique introduced me to the concept of “windows and doors” in children’s literature.
Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop (Professor Emerita of Education at The Ohio State University) first spoke about children’s need for windows and doors in the books that they are exposed to, saying: “Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.” (1990, p. ix)
In essence, Dr. Bishop says that children need exposure to books which mirror their own experience as well as books which offer a glimpse into a world that is different from their own. Others, including celebrated children’s author Grace Lin, have enthusiastically expanded upon the concept in a poignant TedEx talk.
There are so many incredible children’s books that have been published in recent years—and I feel so grateful to be able to share my top 10 list with you. Hopefully these stories spark some enjoyment in your families!
Top 10 List:
1. More More More Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams:
2. A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
3. Stella Luna by Janell Cannon
4. Goodbye, Friend! Hello, Friend! By Cori Doerrfeld
5. The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar & Alea Marley
6. Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
7. Thank You, Omu! By Oge Mora
8. Fatima’s Great Outdoors by Ambreen Tariq & Stevie Lewis
9. Beautiful Oops! By Barney Saltzberg
10. Nobody Likes A Goblin by Ben Hatke