Seattle's Child

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multilingual books

Culturally relevant and multilingual books picked by students and teachers

Books where kids of all backgrounds find themselves on the pages

Searching for a new children’s book to snuggle up with over the summer break? Look no further than the Culturally Relevant and Multilingual Book List, a book collection hand-picked by local students and teachers in partnership with Seattle education research organization foundry10.

What is a culturally relevant book?

Culturally relevant books reflect and build on the lived experiences of a diverse population. In recent years a culturally responsive teaching movement in has led more and more teachers to create their classroom libraries with their students and with books reflecting the faces, heritages and cultures of the kids in the seats. In a culturally responsive library, itles cover a wide variety of topics, including race and ethnicity, skin color, disabilities, cultural foods, beliefs and holidays. The book The Kindest Blue” written by Olympic metalist Ibtihaj Muhammad and illustrated by Hatem Aly with S. K. Ali is an example of one of the books on the list.

multilingual booksPowerful, vibrantly illustrated, its story about the first day of school and about two sisters on one’s first day of hijab. In a nutshell: Young Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special as she heads there with her new backpack and light-up shoes. It’s the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab and her’s is made of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong. It’s a story about new experiences, the unbreakable bond between siblings, being proud of who you are.  Although estimates of the Muslim population in the Seattle area and in greater Washington State vary, according to the there are just over 27,000 Muslims living in Washington. Our sources estimate much higher, between 30,000 and 80,000. For Muslim children, “The Kindest Blue” is a reflection of both personal experience, faith, culture and heritage.

List makes finding books easy

Organized by title, author, and grade appropriateness, the book list includes a variety of multilingual and culturally relevant books from kindergarten to ninth grade.

The titles on the Culturally Relevant and Multilingual Book List were selected by the teachers, staff, and students at El Centro de la Raza, Discovery Elementary (Sammamish) and Lake Stickney Elementary (Lynnwood) as part of a foundry10 literacy intervention program. 

Research with diverse students indicates that culturally relevant and multilingual books can help validate students’ identities, cultures and languages. Learn more about designing student-centered literacy interventions and check out the full book list here!

*Seattle’s Child staff contributed to this article

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