Books for Teaching about Cultural Diversity Through Celebrations
From Unit Plan: Everybody Celebrates!
These are the books I use to introduce the various customs celebrated during Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and La Posada.
The Christmas Promise by Susan Campbell Bartoletti; illustrated by David Christiana
A homeless man finally finds a foster home for daughter in this Depression-era tale.
Classroom Tip: Discuss how many children and families are homeless. Collect canned goods and clothing for a homeless shelter and deliver it before the holidays.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
The Grinch decides to stop the frivolous merriment of the Who's in Whoville. He learns that Christmas is more than just packages and decorations.
Classroom Tip: Brainstorm and chart the things about the holiday season that are important and cannot be bought (such as families spending time together, singing songs, baking cookies, etc).
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore; illustrated by Bruce Whatley
Award-winning illustrator Whatley brings this well-loved Christmas classic to life with imaginative and colorful pictures.
Classroom Tip: In the second reading, have students act out the story.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
This is the tale of a young boy lying awake on Christmas Eve. A magical train stops by his home and takes him on a trip with other children to the North Pole.
Classroom Tip: Make a train-dramatic play center using chairs, warm clothing, cups for pretend hot chocolate, and server outfits from the story so that students can reenact the train ride.
It's Hanukkah! by Jeanne Modesitt; illustrated by Robin Spowart
Explains the story of Hanukkah, information on the Menorah, traditional Hanukkah blessings, and the game of the Dreidel.
Classroom Tip: Make latkes (potato pancakes) with the children.
Light the Lights!: A Story about Celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas by Margaret Moorman
Every December, Emma and her family celebrate two special holidays: Hanukkah and Christmas.
Classroom Tip: Teach and play the game of Dreidel.
Sam I Am by Ilene Cooper
Sam's Jewish father and Christian mother bicker about how to celebrate the holidays this year.
Classroom Tip: Make a Venn Diagram about what is common to both Hanukkah and Christmas.
Las Navidades: Christmas by Lulu Delacre
A collection of bilingual songs that exemplify the traditions of the season. Music and notes on customs included.
Classroom Tip: Use some of the songs to go caroling from class to class.
The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
In this Mexican legend, a little girl weaves a new blanket for the Baby Jesus to be used in a Christmas procession. But she tangles the yarn and feels she has ruined Christmas. A mysterious old woman tells Lucinda, "Any gift is beautiful because it is given." Lucinda brings an armful of weeds into the church, and they open into dazzling red flowers that decorate the altar.
Classroom Tip: Make paper poinsettia flowers out of red, green, and yellow construction paper.
The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie De Paola
The procession of Las Posadas reenacts the story in which Mary and Joseph go from door to door seeking shelter at the inn on Christmas Eve. Sister Angie, who is always in charge of the celebration, is home with the flu, while Lupe and Roberto, who are to play Mary and Joseph, get caught in a snowstorm. But an unknown man and woman take their place in the procession and then disappear.
Classroom Tip: Go from classroom to classroom in the tradition, bearing special treats.
My First Kwanzaa Book by Debbi Chocolate; illustrated by Cal Massey
Introduces the holiday's history and practices.
Classroom Tip: Point out Africa on a world map and discuss the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
K is for Kwanzaa: A Kwanzaa Alphabet Book by Juwanda G. Ford; illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max
This beautifully illustrated book teaches the alphabet while celebrating the joyful African-American holiday.
Classroom Tip: Make an alphabet book as a class using the student's drawings of things associated with their holiday celebrations.
Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Davis Pinkney; illustrated by Brian Pinkney
The origins and traditions of the seven-day African-American holiday are illustrated through the depiction of a family preparing for and celebrating the holiday.
Classroom Tip: Create a classroom Kinara. Have the children bring in fruits and nuts for a Karamu (feast).