Cultural literacy: Read the world this summer!

My husband and I grew up in Germany – Finja was born in the US. German and American culture are not so different, but we use books to give Finja a basic understanding of German language. But it can go further than that! Sharing stories from around the world is a great way to start a conversation about diversity – even before children start thinking about other cultures actively!

20160503_222633566_iOSWhen you love reading you want to share this love with your children. This is the most important part – in the end it doesn’t matter of you join one of the different summer reading programs available or share the books you love with your children. But I have another idea: Why not “read” the world this summer? Why not only share the love of reading with your children, but also learn something about world cultures?

Why summer reading is so important

Summer reading is important. Not only because reading is fun, but because it’s a fun way to work your kid’s brain and prevent learning loss during the summer break. What is learning loss? According to a newer study, average school aged children loose one to three months of learning through the summer. This not just applies to school aged children, but to preschoolers and Kindergardeners as well. Reading interactively is a fun way to keep these little minds sharp!

Reading over the summer is critical for maintaining and expanding the intellectual development of children of all ages. The good news is: With some simple steps you can take to keep your child’s mind sharp over the summer!

According to experts, reading 6 books or more over the summer is essential in keeping “summer brain drain” away. The summer is a great chance to build your library! Have a diverse selection of books on hand from which your children can choose. Not surprisingly children are more engaged when they have the opportunity to select books themselves!

And now to the fun part: Bring the books to life. Give your children more to look forward than “just” a book. Pair it with activities. Why not pair arts and crafts with the book your child loves? I love Pinterest to get some ideas – that makes it easy to tailor activities to the age and interest of your children.


When talking about cultural literacy a fun way to encourage your children to “read around the world” and keep the engagement going is a “world passport”, which is a fun activity to do with your kids. From every country they read a book they can color or stamp it in. Barefoot also uses a world atlas as a map to organize summer reading. Africa, Europe, Asia, America – which continent seems to be most fascinating for your child? Every book about other cultures can give you and your children insight into other parts of the world and a welcome break from everyday school life! 

Read the world!
elephant-dance_fc_wNot only does reading together help children’s cognitive development, but it also strengthens your parent-child bond. Plus, we sometimes forget about something else: As parents we are also concerned about our children’s character development. What kind of people will they grow up to be? We want them to be caring and socially conscious citizens of the world: self-confident, curious and compassionate. And what better way to grow your childrens’ confidence, empathy and knowledge about other cultures than books? That’s why I love the Barefoot books summer reading program. Barefoot books cares about global citizenship. Their reading program encourages families to “travel the world” with a world atlas and use this as a map to organize summer reading. Barefoot books are about cultural diversity – but you sure can use every book to “travel the world” with your children! But: What books will you read? Maybe you already have a selection of cultural books from your home country or out of your own bookshelf. Perfect! Other than that I have some recommendations for you. All these recommendations are from Barefoot books, as I love their cultural books and they fit perfectly into a summer reading program “around the world”. However, please understand these recommendations just as this: Recommendations. Every book about other cultures can give you and your children insight into other parts of the world, so please choose the books you like!

For children (and parents 🙂 ) who are fascinated by the African continent I can recommend two books:

We all went on safari”: Join Arusha, Mosi, Tumpe and their Maasai friends as they set out on a counting journey through the grasslands of Tanzania. Along the way, the children encounter all sorts of animals including elephants, lions and monkeys, while counting from one to ten in both English and Swahili. You could create masks from paper plate as an activity to go with this book!

Another great book is “Mama Panya’s Pancake”: On market day, Mama Panya’s son Adika invites everyone he sees to a pancake dinner. How will Mama Panya ever feed them all? This clever and heartwarming story about Kenyan village life teaches the importance of sharing, even when you have little to give.  The book comes with Mama Panya’s pancake recipe.



Southern Asia
Elephant Dance” lets you listen along with Ravi to Grandfather’s captivating stories about India, where the sun is like a ferocious tiger and monsoon rains cascade like waterfalls. Notes after the story include facts about India’s animals, food, culture and religion, and a simple elephant dance music score. “Elephant Dance” is a NAPRA Nautilus Award Finalist.

Or maybe sunny Mexico is your favorite? Then you’ll love “Off we go to Mexico“. Swim in turquoise seas, admire grey whales and monarch butterflies, trek to native villages and sing and dance to the music of Mariachi bands. Along the way, you can learn Spanish words and phrases and discover Mexican culture. Why not pair this book about Mexican culture with a visit in an original Mexican restaurant?

You love fairytales from different cultures and want to “travel” to Asia with your children? Then “Lin Yi’s Lantern – A Moon Festival Tale” is a fantastic book for you and your children. Meet Lin Yi — a little boy with a big heart and a talent for bargaining. Tonight is the moon festival and he wants nothing more than a red rabbit lantern; but first he must buy the things his mother needs at the market. This heartwarming story shows the rewards of putting others first, and includes educational notes at the end about the Chinese moon festival, life in rural China, and the legend of the moon fairy.

chandras-magic-light_w_1One of the newer books, that will captivate elementary school aged children as well as adults, is “Chandra’s Magic Light”. Join sisters Chandra and Deena at the market in Nepal. A man is selling lamps that are powered by the sun instead of kerosene, and Chandra knows the magic solar lamp would help her baby brother’s cough. But how will they afford one? This lyrical tale is brought to life with luminous acrylic artwork, and comes complete with seven pages of endnotes, including an illustrated map of Nepal, notes on Nepali daily life and instructions for making a pizza box solar oven, which is a great activity to go with your summer reading. This book was developed with the help and advice of SolarAid UK and ECCA (Nepal).

Which books are you choosing?
You don’t need to buy the recommended books for this summer reading program – every book about other cultures can give you and your children insight into other parts of the world and a welcome break from everyday school life! Which books are you choosing?




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