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International mindedness in Lower Elementary: Home

A guide for international mindedness for Lower Elementary students

Sam Sherratt's International Mindedness blog

Librarians' Continuum Wiki: International Mindedness

Global perspective - books

The Global Picture Book: It's Not Just for Kids

Picture books about the world can open minds, stimulate discussion, and ignite enthusiasm about global education. Read aloud a picture book with a global theme as you begin a new unit in your class, or choose a book expressing the global theme under study to read aloud as you conclude.

(You might plan a special celebration for the third week of November, when International Education Week (November 15-19) and Children's Book Week (November 16-22) coincide. Middle and high school students can share a global book with a younger group. Below are just a few ideas to get you started)

P is for Passport: A World Alphabet
Written by Devin Scillian
Chelsea , MI : Sleeping Bear Press, 2003. ISBN 1-58536-157-7
A beautifully illustrated celebration of diversity and similarity around the world, illustrated by many artists.

If the World Were a Village: A Book About the World's People
Written by David J. Smith Illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong
Tonawanda , NY : Kids Can Press, 2002 ISBN 1-55074-779-7
An insightful treatment of the “global village” metaphor. Offers data (updated in 2003) on languages, food, schooling, and wealth. Concludes with suggestions for encouraging “world-mindedness” in young people through discussion, games, and activities.

How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World
Written and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
New York : Dragonfly Books, 1996 ISBN 0-67988-083-6
A magical trip around the world to collect the ingredients for an apple pie. Young children are delighted by the fanciful adventure, and older listeners are intrigued by the geographical detail of the pie's origins. Includes a simple recipe for apple pie.

Children Just Like Me: Celebrations!
Written by Barnabas and Anabel Kindersley
New York : DK Publishing, 1997. ISBN: 0-78942-027-9
The sequel to Children Just Like Me features descriptions and photos of festivals and holidays celebrated in different countries around the world. A great way to visualize cultural celebrations in a region under study.

Material World: A Global Family Portrait
By Peter Menzel, Charles C. Mann, and Paul Kennedy
Sierra Club Books, 1995 ISBN: 0-87156-430-0
A photographic tour of the world in which the sights are families' homes and their belongings. A good visual depiction of differences in culture, environment, and wealth.

Hello, World! Greetings in 42 Languages Around the Globe!
Written and Illustrated by Manya Stojic
New York : Scholastic Books, 2002 ISBN 0-43936-202-4
A picture book that offers “hellos” in many languages, and includes pronunciation. This book could be the inspiration for a school and parents' night presentation, with younger students learning to say the “hello” and older students explaining where language is spoken.

Around the World Series
Written by Ann Morris
A photographic series suitable for all ages, including young children. Thematically arranged (families, work, houses, bread, hats, shoes), each book makes clear the diversity and ingenuity cultures express in creating what is simplest and most useful in life.

On the Same Day in March: A Tour of the World's Weather
Written by Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Frané Lessac.
New York : HarperTrophy, 2001 ISBN 0-06443-528-8
A world tour on a single day, dramatizing differences in climate, environment, and cultural adaptations in poetic language and illustrations with the beautiful simplicity of folk art. 


Carol Hurst's Children's Literature site offers more ideas for the global read-aloud. See Looking Critically at Picture Books” at
and “Recommended Titles for Reading Aloud”

The National Council on Social Studies also offers annual lists of worthwhile books you might include in your classroom.


World of Words

Books that promote intercultural understanding

Picture Books

Grandfather’s Journey, by Allen Say A story of a Grandfather who lived in both Japan and America, and how he struggles with belonging.

Cat & Fish, by Neil Curtis 2 friends, Cat & Fish learn about each other’s worlds.

Cleversticks,   by Bernard Ashley Ling Sung finds it hard to do many things at school, but realises that he has a special talent too – he can use chopsticks

When Jessie Came Across the Sea, by Amy Hest A young girl learns to write and wonders why her Grandmother insists she learn to sew.  She teaches her Grandmother to write in exchange and they both wonder why they have to learn the other skill. Then Jessie (young girl) travels by boat to America, leaving her only relative (Grandmother) behind. They write to each other (and the Grandmother can read the letters)- and Jessie sews for work in America.... beautiful story about them coming together again and getting used to a new life in a new country.

From Far and Away, by Robert Munsch

Good-bye 382 Shin Dang Dong, by Frances Park A young Korean girl finds out she is moving to America and describes how she spends her last day in Korea before leaving.

Tales From Gold Mountain: Stories of the Chinese in the New World by Paul Yee (Ages 4-8) - Eight original stories give readers a sense of the hardships faced by the first Chinese-Americans. In "Spirits of the Railway," a young man appeases the ghosts of dead railroad workers who were never properly buried. In "Forbidden Fruit," a father's prejudice keeps his daughter from marrying her beloved. Dramatic illustrations accompany the stories.

The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco (Grades K+) - A Russian immigrant mother and family arrive in the United States. She plans to make a quilt from a basket of old clothes. The quilt is passed along from mother to daughter for four generations. It becomes a Sabbath tablecloth and a wedding canopy. When it becomes a blanket for new generations of children, it really tells a family's story of love, faith and endurance.

Happy New Year!, by Emery Bernhard This well-researched, appealing book describes how people celebrate the new year, not only in the U.S., but also in such varied places as Bali, Ethiopia, India, China, and Japan. Discussion of historical perspective and the significance of the holiday in different religions lends authority to the text. Bright, bold illustrations enhance the multicultural theme.

Christmas Around the World, by Emily Kelley After a two-page overview of the holiday, readers learn about customs and activities in eight countries, ranging from the posadas of Mexico to using small pots of newly sprouted plants as decorations in Lebanon. Other countries visited include China and Sweden. A world map shows the countries visited and jokes, tongue twisters, and a recipe for cornflake wreaths (cookies) are included.

The Keeping Quilt - P. Polacco A homemade quilt ties together the lives of four generations of an immigrant Jewish family, remaining a symbol of their enduring love and faith.

The Colors of Us - K. Katz Seven-year-old Lena and her mother observe the variations in the color of their friends’ skin, viewed in terms of foods and things found in nature.

Angel Child, Dragon Child - Michele M. Surat A Vietnamese girl attending school in the United States, lonely for her mother left behind in Vietnam, makes a new friend who presents her with a wonderful gift.

Bein’ with You this Way - W. Lisa-Nikola Prose poem celebrating the joyful innocence of childhood and racial diversity.

All the Colors of the Earth - S. Hamanaka A multicultural expression of acceptance and peace for the children of the world.

We are All Related - G. Littlechild A celebration of our cultural heritage.

My House has Stars - M. McDonald Young people describe the different kinds of homes they live in around the world and how they see the stars.

Everybody Bakes Bread - N. Dooley A rainy-day errand introduces Carrie to many different kinds of bread, including chapatis, challah, and papusaa.

Everybody Cooks Rice - N. Dooley A child is sent to find a younger brother at dinnertime and is introduced to a variety of cultures through encountering the many different ways rice is prepared at the different households visited.

The Name Jar - Y. Choi After Unhei moves from Korea to the United States, her new classmates help her decide what her name should be.

My Name is Yoon - H. Recorvits Disliking her name as written in English, Korean-born Yoon, or “shining wisdom” refers to herself as “cat,” “bird,” and “cupcake,” as a way to feel more comfortable in her new school and new country.

Whoever You Are - M. Fox Despite differences between people around the world, there are similarities that join us together, such as pain, joy, and love.

Painted words: Marianthe’s Story; Spoken Memories - Aliki Two separate stories in one book, the first telling of Marianthe’s starting school in a new land, and the second describing village life in her country before she and her family left for a better life.

The Caged Birds of Phnom Penh - F. Lipp A young Cambodian girl saves her money to buy a bird on which to make a wish for her poor family’s future.

I Hate English - Ellen Levine When her family moves to New York from Hong Kong, Mei Mei finds it difficult to adjust to school and learn the alien sounds of English.

Color Of Home - Hoffman, Mary Hassan, newly-arrived in the United States and feeling homesick, paints a picture at school that shows his old home in Somalia as well as the reason his family had to leave.

Lights for Gita - Gilmore, Rachna Recently immigrated from India, Gita is looking forward to celebrating her favorite holiday, Divali, a festival of lights, but things are so different in her new home that she wonders if she will ever adjust.

Long Way to a New Land - Sandin, Joan Carl Erik journeys with his family from Sweden to America during the famine of 1868. 

My Chinatown - Mak, Kam A boy adjusts to life away from his home in Hong Kong, in the Chinatown of his new American city.

St. Patrick's Day Shillelagh - Nolan, Janet On his way from Ireland to America to escape the potato famine, young Fergus carves a shillelagh from his favorite blackthorn tree, and each St. Patrick's Day for generations, his story is retold by one of his descendants.

Watch the Stars come out - Levinson, Riki Grandma tells about her mama's journey to America by boat, in a story beautifully illustrated by Diane Goode.

Stories for Young Readers (9 – 13)

Boy Overboard, by     Morris Gleitzman This is the story of 2 soccer-mad siblings, Jamal & Bibi who dream of playing soccer in Australia. As they travel to Australia, they face many challenges, but it is clear that children all over the world have similar dreams.

Benny and Omar, by Eoin Colfer Benny, a young sports-fanatic moves from Wexford to Tunisia. He makes friends with Omar, a local Tunisian and learns a lot about people and cultures.

Bloomability, by Sharon Creech A 12 or 13 yr old American girl is sent to an international boarding school in Switzerland. This story follows her transformation there.

The Power of One: Young Reader’s Edition, by Bryce Courtenay This is Bryce Courtenay's classic best-selling story of the triumph of the human spirit, specially adapted for young readers. Born in a South Africa divided by racism and hatred, little six-year-old Peekay learns that small can beat big and that the most important thing is the power of one: the force for good within each individual.

The Gold Threaded Dress, by Caroyln Marsden  (chapter book) Fourth grader Oy, a Thai-American student new to a predominantly Mexican-American school, struggles to fit in with the popular clique of girls led by Liliandra. When Liliandra knocks into Oy and a picture of the heroine in a ceremonial Thai dress flutters from her backpack, the trouble begins (" `Oooooh, pretty,' said the girls following Liliandra. `Like a princess' ").  

Asli's Story, by Adrienne Jansen (short chapter book) A young Somalian girl shares her story of leaving Somalia because of war, taking refuge in another African country, then finally immigrating to New Zealand and trying to 'fit in' in a land so different than her homeland. 

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor (Grades 5-9) - This Newbery Winner was the first book written in a series about the Logan family. In this volume, we focus on Cassie, one of four children living in Mississippi during the Depression. The Logan family owns some land and is respected by others in the African American community but the violence that surrounds them is an ever-present threat and Cassie's innocence is shattered when she makes her first visit to town.

Molly’s Pilgrim - B. Cohen Told to make a doll like a Pilgrim for the Thanksgiving display at school, Molly’s Jewish mother dresses the doll as she herself dressed before leaving Russia.

Number the Stars - L. Lowry In 1943, during the German occupation of Denmark, ten-year-old Annemarie learns how to be brave and courageous when she helps shelter her Jewish friend from the Nazis

The Cay - T. Taylor A story of how a boy makes his separate peace with race prejudice.

Seedfolks - Paul Fleischman One by one, a number of people of varying ages and backgrounds transform a trash-filled inner-city lot into a productive and beautiful garden, and in doing so, the gardeners are themselves transformed.

Good-bye Viet Nam - Whelan, Gloria Thirteen-year-old Mai and her family embark on a dangerous sea voyage from Vietnam to Hong Kong to escape the unpredictable and often brutal Vietnamese government.

Generation on - how children can make a difference

We are the world - with flags

If the world were a village of 100 people

Global dimensions - teacher's resource

One world many stories

Growing up global