This post is part of a paid partnership with Epic! Books for Kids. Tips, ideas, and opinions are totally ours! -Meagan & Sarah
I have always loved learning about holidays and celebrations from countries and cultures different from my own, and it’s something I want me kids to grow up with an appreciation for as well. And while learning about, honoring, and appreciating other cultures can happen all year round, something about the winter holidays seems to present a heightened opportunity for learning.
Because picture books and reading aloud are already a part of our family culture, including discussions about a wide variety of holidays and religious practices fits really naturally into storytime. While there are great non-fiction books to help parents and kids learn together, we also love finding compelling stories with beautiful illustrations that center around celebrations different from the ones we observe.
This year I got the idea to use Epic! to curate a list of picture books that honor, celebrate, and teach us about holidays and celebrations from around the world. I was thrilled with the titles I found in Epic’s library, and I love the ability to save them to a collection that all three of my kids can access through their account. I can even “assign” the reading to my kids and see their progress!
Picture Books That Celebrate Holidays From Around The World
Here are a few of the titles we’ll be reading together over winter break as we deepen our knowledge and appreciation of cultures around the world:
Winter Candle, by Jerone Ashford
This book is so cleverly conceived and beautifully executed! It follows one candle as it’s shared, loaned, and borrowed among families in an apartment complex, each of whom need the light for a different purpose or celebration. Any story that reminds us of our shared humanity is a win for me–plus we see a number of different faith traditions in one story, so the learning is rich!
Snow Party, by Harriet Ziefert
I’ve always loved learning about Winter Solstice celebrations, both in their ancient traditions and modern practices. This is a lighthearted story about snow-people characters coming together on the longest night of the year for a special celebration.
Hannukah Bear, by Eric A. Kimmel
I love the humor in this book, even as we learned so many things about Hannukah celebrations. Bubba Brayna is a 97-year-old grandmother who doesn’t hear or see well, and mistakes a bear for the rabbi come to visit. She feeds him latkes, and they pray and play together into the evening; it isn’t until when the real rabbi comes to call that she realizes her mistake (spoiler alert: there are enough latkes for everyone).
Sam and the Lucky Money, by Karen Chinn
We learned about traditional Chinese foods, traditions, and values through the story of Sam, a Chinese-American boy who has to make a choice about how he spends money gifted to him for the New Year. It’s a sweet story that kids can relate to, with beautiful pictures of Chinese cultural elements.
Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story, by Reem Faruqui
Kids who notice differences in how their classmates celebrate holidays, or who observe the overlap between school routines and cultural traditions, will love this smart story of Lailah, who is excited to fast for Ramadan for the first time but worries about how to explain her choice to her teacher and school friends.
Great Joy, by Kate DiCamillo
If you’re already a fan of Kate DiCamillo’s middle grade novels, this Christmas picture book will be a treat. Epic! has the audiobook version, which tells the story of a little girl coming to terms with the poverty and injustice she sees around her at Christmastime.
Non-Fiction Books For Kids About World Religions
While we gravitate more toward stories than fact books to explore different cultures, a couple of non-fiction titles on Epic! caught my eye as I was building out this collection:
Who Believes What?: Exploring the World’s Major Religions, by Anna Wills
This is a really cool combination of illustrations and text that explains to children the tenets of faith from religions around the world. There is some oversimplification in the way some of the information is presented and I will talk to my kids about the dangers of generalizing when it comes to religious groups, but if you’d like to brush up on your own comparative religions knowledge while giving your kids an introduction, this is a great start.
Christmas Traditions Around the World, by Ann Ingalls
Similar to the previous title, this is a fun look at how one holiday–Christmas–plays out differently all across the world. It’s a great reminder that the Christmas our kids experience in North America is not the way the whole world celebrates.
Happy celebrating, friends–and happy reading!
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