Family Literacy Day takes place every January 27th to raise awareness about the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family. This year’s theme is “Celebrate Your Heritage” and what better way to help your students celebrate theirs than by sharing picture books about heritage!
Below are my top ten (actually 13 but who’s counting?) books celebrating heritage!
Where Are You From? – Yamile Saied Mendez
Oh, what a beautiful book. A young girl of color gets asked by classmates and adults, “Where are you from?” Her responses don’t seem to satisfy, but with the help of her amazing grandfather, she learns of all the beautiful places her ancestors come from. A great book for introducing heritage.
Town Is By the Sea – Joanne Schwartz (Canada)
This is a simple story of how a Cape Breton boy spends his day in the village by the sea, contrasted with his own father’s day spent mining coal. Stunning artwork.
The Hockey Sweater – Roch Carrier (Canada)
A young Montreal boy must endure the indignity of wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey sweater in this classic story. This book is quintessential Canada to me. It doesn’t matter if you are from Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, or Calgary…everyone I know (my age) has read, loves, and has made connections to this book.
Hair Twins – Raakhee Mirchandani (Sikh)
A Sikh father and daughter with a special hair bond proudly celebrate and share a family tradition in this charming, joyful story that explores culture, heritage, and the beauty of family traditions.
Suki’s Kimono – Chieri Uegaki (Japan)
First grader Suki has such a wonderful time with her obachan over the summer that she decides to wear her Japanese grandmother’s present, a komono, on her first day of school. Her sisters are embarrased by her outfit because it isn’t “new” or “cool” but Suki is determined. Charming story, great illustrations and a lovely introduction to Japanese culture and heritage.
My Dadima Wears a Sari – Kashmira Sheth (Hindu)
This is a sweet story about a Indian grandmother explaining to her granddaughter about the sari which they wear in their culture.
Island Born – Junot Diaz (Dominican Republic)
When Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, Lola can’t remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories and Lola’s imagination, she takes an extraordinary journey back to The Island. Lovely, lyrical rhythm and the illustrations are colorful and joyful!
Fry Bread – Kevin Noble Maillard (Indigenous)
A beautiful ode to fry bread and a celebration of food – food as family, food as community, food as culture, food as history. Back notes and recipe included.
Powwow Day – Traci Sorell (Indigenous)
Eight year old River is recovering from a recent illness, but is not yet well enough to dance at the powwow. She is well enough to go, and so we see the powwow through her eyes. There is an informational page at the end explaining some of the terms and history of the powwow and its dances.
When Lola Visits – Michelle Sterling (Phillipines)
A young Filipino girl looks forward to her annual summertime visits from her grandmother Together they enjoy the Filipino traditions, food, and stories. The illustrations are gorgeous.
Watercress – Andrea Wang (China)
A young girl is embarrassed when her parents jump out of the family car on the side of the road and start picking watercress. When her mother shares a bittersweet story of her family history in China, the girl learns to appreciate all that her parents went through to make a better life for her and her brother. SUCH a powerful story of how our heritage stays with us and shapes us. Deserved EVERY book award it received!
Dumplings for Lili – Melissa Iwai (China and multi-cultural)
Lili helps her Nai Nai make “baos” – her favorite Chinese dish! Readers follow Lili as she makes her way back and forth, up and down, in her apartment building, gathering the ingredients from a group of very diverse group of neighbours. I love how this book celebrates diversity, heritage and community!
I Dream of Popo – Livia Blackburne (Taiwan)
When a girl and her family emigrate from Taiwan to the USA, she leaves behind her beloved Popo. A beautiful, heartwarming story that celebrates a special connection that crosses oceans as Popo and her granddaughter hold each other in their hearts forever.
The Bagel King – Andrew Larsen (Yiddish)
Yiddish words and phrases follow Eli and his Grandpa as they enjoy the best thing about Sundays, the warm chewy bagels. When Grandpa falls and can no longer make a delivery, Eli works to help him.
Tia Fortuna’s New Home – A Jewish Cuban Journey – Ruth Behar
Estrella learns about her Cuban and Jewish heritage as she helps her aunt move from her Miami apartment to an assisted living community.