In a perfect world, we might pack up our suitcases and jet off to explore the world with our kids on any given whim. What amazing experiences they’d have learning about new cultures, geography, languages, and ways of life! Of course, in that utopia, there would be no complaining about long flights, no pesky credit card bills, and no soccer practice schedules to work around.
But even in your very real world, kids can still explore new lands — without leaving the house (or needing updated passport photos). Summer is the opportune time to incorporate worldly lessons into your child’s reading material. These books will take your kids to places they’ve never been before, and may just inspire a new drive to discover more about the diverse, vibrant world we live in.
Each of the books in this list is from the Scholastic Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge, a free, fun educational program. During the Challenge, kids enter reading minutes online to unlock exclusive digital rewards and help donate books to kids in need across the country. Ask your child’s teacher or local librarian if they’re participating — if not, you can register your child individually. Then, give your little one a ticket to adventure with these great reads!
My First Mandarin Words With Gordon & Li Li by Michele Wong McSween (Ages 0 - 3)
Join Li Li, a Mandarin speaker from Beijing, China, as she visits her cousin, Gordon, in New York City. As they explore the metropolis, each learns about how to say different words in English and Mandarin. This charming book is an introduction to words for toddlers and preschoolers alike that will expand their minds as much as their vocabulary.
We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands by Rafael Lopez (Ages 3 - 5)
If you now have the classic song “I’ve Got the Whole World In My Hands” stuck in your head, you’re onto something. This book is based on the song, but it uses gorgeous, colorful illustrations and rhythmic verse to portray a message of friendship with other children around the globe. The book is a fantastic jumping-off point for discussing other cultures, ways of life, and the places your child may want to visit one day.
Drawn Together by Minh Lê (Ages 3 - 5)
A young boy desperately wants to get to know his grandfather — but they come from different worlds. Grandpa doesn’t speak English and doesn’t know how to communicate with his grandson. The one thing they have in common, though, is drawing. In scribbling pictures together, they discover a way to share stories, use their imaginations, and create a bond like never before. This heartwarming picture book features gorgeous comic book-style illustrations and a story about merging two languages, cultures, and histories that intrigues young readers.
Saffron Ice Cream by Rashin Kheiriyeh (Ages 4 - 8)
Rashin just moved to New York from her home in Iran. On her family’s first beach outing, she reminisces about beach trips in Iran, her best friend Azadeh, the Caspian sea, and saffron ice cream. This story paints a stunning picture of Iran for children in preschool and beyond, and celebrates the memories and heritage that make us who we are, no matter where we go on our next adventure.
She Dared: Malala Yousafzai by Jenni L. Walsh (Ages 8 - 12)
When an extremist group in Pakistan tried to stop girls from going to school, Malala Yousafzai spoke out. The young girl, who wanted to become a doctor, was attacked for her views, but she persisted, becoming a global advocate for the rights of girls around the world and the youngest winner of a Nobel Prize. This book not only tells the story of Malala and how any child has the power to use their voice for the greater good, but teaches kids about important issues certain parts of the world face.
Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender (Ages 8 - 12)
Twelve-year-old Caroline might be the unluckiest girl on St. Thomas Island in the Virgin Islands. She was born during a hurricane, she gets bullied at school, and her mother left home one day and never returned. But Caroline’s luck begins to change when she meets a new friend named Kalinda, who moved to St. Thomas from Barbados. Together, they set out in a hurricane to find Caroline’s mom and to discover what it truly means to be brave. Kids will love this one for its intricate story, the magical realism, and its insider look at life on St. Thomas.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang (Ages 8 - 12)
Mia Tang is the daughter of immigrants and works with her family at the Calivista Motel in California. Most days are boring, but the family has a secret: Mia’s parents use rooms at the hotel to house other immigrants and help them start new lives. Mia lives her life speaking two languages, learning about two cultures, and getting caught between two worlds. In this engaging story, Mia learns important lessons about bravery, loyalty, following your heart, and having the courage to do what is right.
Grenade by Alan Gratz (Ages 9 - 12)
With this book, your child will travel back in time to Okinawa, Japan, in 1945. It tells the story of two soldiers — one American and one Japanese — brought together by the tragedy of World War II, and the difficult decisions they must make on the battlefield. It’s a moving introduction to one of the most significant wars in world history and shows how similar we all really are, even if we live on different shores.
The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah (Ages 12+)
One boy’s life changes when he meets a refugee from Afghanistan and learns the true meaning of acceptance and love. Michael is growing up in an anti-refugee household in Australia, but when Mina shows up at his school, their friendship challenges everything he has learned from his parents. This chapter book is an important story about standing up for what you believe in, and how just one person can drastically change our perspective.
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Kahn (Ages 14+)
Rukhsana Ali is 17 years old, can’t wait to go off to college, and loves her girlfriend, Ariana. Little does she know, her life is about to change in ways she never imagined. When Ruhksana’s parents see her kiss Ariana, they decide to move the family back to Bangladesh, immersing Rukhsana in an unfamiliar culture and way of life. This powerful story, intended for mature readers (9th grade and up), is about finding yourself and fighting for what you believe in while still keeping your ties to your family and heritage.