As you begin buying gifts for the holidays, I urge you to give the gift of reading magic instead of candy or trinkets. The traditional Advent is done for the countdown to Christmas. However, this fun tradition can be done with any winter holiday you celebrate with students or your own children. Whether it be winter break, Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, or Kwanzaa; you can enjoy the tradition of a multicultural book advent.
Every year I have been teaching, our tradition is to do a Multicultural Book Advent as a countdown to winter break. (Any veteran teacher will tell you the winter break countdown is far more important than all the winter holidays combined anyway.) Below are my top 25 books to create a Multicultural Book Advent (or purchase at any time of the year).
How to Make a Book Advent
First of all, if you haven’t done a Book Advent before, you have one book for each day of your countdown to the holiday of your choice. You can buy the books, check them out from your local library, or simply incorporate book titles already in your home library. If you want to add an element of surprise, wrap and date each book and let your child(ren) open one each day.
(photo credit: Delightful Children’s Books)
Alternatively, if you want to keep it simple, just put your books in a pile or in a basket. Then, let children choose one per day. (You can also let the older kids wrap the books while the younger ones color the calendar tags!) You simply wrap up the books in recycled paper or bags and label the numbers.
(photo credit: Craftsmumship)
I can see you perfectionists panicking looking at the calendar right now (you know who you are)! For the overachievers, you can go all out and print these fancy Advent calendar tags to complement your fancy wrapping paper job. Making this multicultural book advent is as easy as you want it to be.
(photo credit: All About Learning Press)
Multicultural Book Advent: Board Books and Picture Books for Strong Girls
This year’s book advent theme: Multicultural Book Advent: Books for Strong Girls. Instead of books about snow, I put together an award-winning list of board books and picture books that show off strong, fierce, brave, and clever girls as the main character who happens to be a female of color.
I recently did an interview with top female authors who write about diverse females, Consequently, we learned that having diverse females represented in mainstream children’s books is crucial. Both for raising empowered and self-confident girls, as well as children who are culturally competent.
These books are also critical for raising boys who believe in gender equality. Teachers and parents: we need to be explicitly teaching gender equality through reading aloud and the books we share with boys and girls. Every child needs to see everyday female role models, as well as on TV/movies. By doing this, we teach tolerance and empathy, while breaking down harmful stereotypes. This multicultural book advent list below is appropriate for ages 0-10.
Top 25 Books for a Multicultural Book Advent
25. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2 by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavalo. This book is first on the list because you will need to pre-order by November 30th. This book holds the incredible stories of mighty women from 70 countries around the world. (Grab the sequel: Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls which is available in multiple translations if you haven’t already.)
24. Grace For President by Kelly DiPucchio. This gorgeous and powerful story is an epic tale of girl power. As a result, one fearless little girl changed the world by answering the question “where are all the girls?”
When Grace’s teacher reveals that the United States has never had a female president, Grace decides to be the first. This story shows a girl breaking the glass ceiling, but also teaches them the value of hard work, courage, and independent thought. Perfect for teaching kids to be a leader and not a follower!
23. Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty. The next two books are about two amazing STEM girls and classmates. These incredible girls have boundless imaginations, intelligence, and perseverance. Teach the powerful lesson of the gift of failure while being entertained by Ada’s fearless fact-finding mission and conducts scientific experiments. Step into Ada’s world and teach children that sometimes asking “why” is the first step in achieving your dreams. (Don’t forget to grab the Ada Twist’s Big Project Book for Stellar Scientists too.)
22. Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty. Similarly to Ada, Little Rosie dreams of being an engineer. She almost gives up on her dream until she learns that failure is often the first step on the road to success. Thanks to her aunt (famous Rosie the Riveter), children will learn the power of resilience while also learning important historical events and scientific vocabulary. The book’s rhythm and rhyme will keep even reluctant readers enthralled. (Follow up this book with the Rosie Revere’s Project Book for Engineers to teach kids how to build a solar oven, a catapult, etc.)
21. The Most Magnificent Thing– by Ashley Spires When you hear the words “saws, glues, adjusts, smashes, pummels, and explodes”, you most likely visualize boys. There are so few books showcasing girls with power tools, so this book immediately drew me in. My own daughter and I stayed enraptured with this book not only because of the message, but the storyline was full of action, hilarity, and amazing illustrations. It can be a great mentor text for teaching planning, brainstorming, etc. Additionally, the book will inspire kids to get outdoors to make their own magnificent creation instead of looking at their iPads over the holiday break.
20. I Love Your Brown by Daney by n this love letter from mothers to brown daughters everywhere, little girls are reminded to love the skin they’re in. A celebration of girls who come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes. A perfect book for explicitly teach kids little brown girls are tough and strong and bright.
19. Lulu Loves the Library by Anna McQuinn. Having lived in countries where I did not have access to a library made this moment-by-moment account of Lulu’s first visit to the local library. Darling Lulu comes from a family of book lovers. This book perfectly describes the experience of the reading magic a library has to offer. This new hardcover edition also includes a multiple language CD. (English, Irish and Welsh as well as Somali, Polish, French, Spanish, Urdu, Japanese, Arabic and many other languages.) Add this book to your reading nook to create a reader-friendly home.
18. Lulu Loves Stories by Anna McQuinn. In this wonderful book, Lola’s dad reads to her every night. More importantly, he takes reading aloud one step further. In this book, we see Lola and her dad role play all the fabulous stories they read together. Lola’s dad encourages her imagination as she explores; traveling to Lagos, becoming a pilot, a farmer, and even a tiger. This is a favorite to read aloud during my community helpers unit with my students as a pre-writing activity to “what do you want to be when you grow up.” Lola’s dad would answer: The sky is the limit. (Also comes with the multiple language CD.)
17. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle. This is again one of our personal favorites about a multiracial mighty girl who was told drumming is only for boys. Learn about the history of music in Cuba with a little Chinese-African-Cuban girl who refused to take no for an answer. The author makes the story come alive in so many ways. The rhythm, as well as the repetitive phrases, read like a song to the beat of a drum. This book is sure to wow your babies right from birth.
16. Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows by Asia Citro. So many of the illustrated chapter series for young readers (grades 1 and 2) are bombarded by silly stories. These are without much educational value (other than the fact kids are reading) so this series is a breath of fresh air. These books are written by a science teacher, so they expertly teach animal science conce
pts. However, the message is entertaining and teaches empathy and kindness for animals. I also want to point out this book is an ode to all the working moms. (Zoey is depicted to have the same magical powers as her mom.) The valuable lesson that mothers can have other superpowers than cleaning, cooking, taxi-driving al while wearing heels is key.
15. One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck. For all the kids who you think should be lawyers when they grow up, this is the book for you! Darling little multiracial Sophia is the queen of negotiation. Her plan is to convince her mom, dad, uncle, and grandma to allow her to get a giraffe. I love seeing her feisty and well-executed plan to build presentations, proposals, and pie charts. (Talk about a perfect book to introduce a Persuasive Writing unit.) While older kids think they are “too old” for picture books; this is a totally relatable and WONDERFUL book for any age. Read out to find out Sophia’s magic word that finally wins her case.
Be sure to check out the Curriculum Guide for One Word From Sophia to teach this amazing book in your Language Arts classes. (aligns with Common Core Standards).
14. Lola Levine And the Ballet Scheme by Monica Brown. Lola Levine is another multiracial and multilingual shero. She loves sports, but also loves writing in her diario. She loves being all grown up sipping her mom’s cafe con leche followed by getting dirty playing soccer with her team. Lola has to find common ground with a new friend who ONLY wears pink (Lola’s least favorite color). And to top it all off, her new classmate thinks ballet is a “real” sport like her beloved soccer. Use Lola’s creative style to teach wonderful conflict resolution skills. (The first book in the amazing Lola Levine illustrated chapter book series.)
13. My Name is Celia by Monica Brown. This bilingual (English and Spanish) book about the life of Celia Cruz is heartwarming. Another multiracial role model who overcomes racial prejudice and many obstacles to sharing her talents with the world. The book’s illustrations are as warm and brilliant as the story itself. The rhythm of Cuban salsa marches you through this amazing story.
12. Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil Rights Activist by Alice Briere-Haquet. A stunning picture-book biography of the High Priestess of Soul. One of the greatest voices of the 20th century; activist and artist Nina Simone. Yet another book that will give you chills. This lullaby recounts the trials and tribulations that Nina refused to let break her down. Nina is extraordinary and this book is perfect for teaching children about activism. (pre-order book released on November 28th)
11. The Legendary Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford. The story of Lena Horne and her multiracial family is incredible. Lena is an activist in the music world with Marian Anderson as her chosen shero and role model. Truly a story of inspiration to hold fast to your dreams despite a world that tells you “you are just a little Black girl. Carole’s books continue to be some of our favorite historical biographies. Our collection is rapidly growing!
10. Feminist Baby by Loryn Brantz. Feminist baby loves pink and blue, cars and dolls and one of our favorite board books to read aloud. My husband and I want to raise our 2 girls to be strong and confident. For us, this means reading the stories of strong women in history, as well as fictional characters right from birth. This amazing rhyming book sends the right message from the beginning: girls can be and do anything. Runner-up: This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer by Joan Holub.
9. When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan. Marian Anderson was the first African-American to sing in Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. While a global phenomenon and the voice of an angel; this humble activist did not march the streets. Rather, she used her musical talent to win the hearts of people all over the world. She simply shares her truth through old church choir Spiritual songs. A MUST read historical account for every child.
8. Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos by Monica Brown. There can never be too many picture books written about Frida Kahlo. The incredible work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is given a new perspective in this lovely new book. Prepare to be enchanted by Frida who embodies the wonderful characteristics of her pets. Another fresh and upbeat way to continue celebrating this amazingly powerful woman. Bonus: check out this gorgeous Frida Kahlo doll to accompany the book.
7. Queen of the Scene by Queen Latifah. The Grammy Award-winning First Lady of Hip–Hop, teams up with the Caldecott Honor artist Frank Morrison in a celebration of spirit and pride. Basketball, stickball, jump–rope, soccer–there’s nothing she won’t try. A perfect book to show how girls can be strong without sacrificing style. (Insider tip for adults: check out Just Wright; a basketball comedy starring Queen Latifah and Common.)
6. Lucia the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza. Mexican wrestling is hugely lacking in representation in children’s literature. Enter Lucia the Luchadora. This book cleverly equates superheroes with luchadoras, breaks Mexican gender and cultural stereotypes, and is downright hilarious. However, I warn you! Every child you read this too will be begging for a luchadora costume. Get ready for a new obsession and brush up on your knowledge of Mexican wrestling. Lucia is a shero that EVERY girl will see part of themselves in her inspirational journey! Girls will learn that empowering each and lifting each other up is the most heroic act of all. A perfect book for how to teach #choosekind.
5. Sasha Savvy Loves to Code by Sasha Ariel Alson. Just 3 % of all STEM jobs in the US are held by African American females. This wonderful book aims to encourage young girls of color to pursue science, and specifically coding as a career. Sasha is a is 10-year-old who begins her dreams of a future in STEM when she attends a computer camp. Her experiences are both challenging and exciting and you will love this fun book. Runner-up: Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World by Reshma Saujani
4. The Case of RBG vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter. Ladies and Gentleman of the jury, (aka the kid’s book lovers of the internet): During this trial, you will learn about a little girl who had no clue what her future held. You will read about the unfair world she was born into– where boys were valued more than girls. Where Ruth grew up, women were not encouraged to achieve and aspire. No one believed a little Jewish girl would grow up to become a symbol of justice in America. Read this amazing personal history of the one and only Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
3. Maya Angelou (Little People Big Dreams) by Lisbeth Kaiser. “Lift every voice.” Maya Angelou is one of the books in the Little People, Big Dreams series. The book follows Maya Angelou, from her early traumatic childhood to her time as a singer. Her story continues as an actress, civil rights activist, and eventually, one of America’s most beloved writers. This inspiring and informative little biography comes with extra fun facts about Maya’s life at the back. This marvelous book teaches children that there is nothing they can’t be.
2. Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer. It is there right in the title; this twist on the classic Mother Goose Rhyme has STYLE! A new and improved fashion-forward Mary helps some of children’s most beloved characters go glam. Once more, a book that is breaking the stereotypes that fierce and clever girls can be stylish too. Mary’s school friends (other classic Mother Goose characters) look fantastic in their finery thanks to one of our all-time favorite illustrators Vanessa Brantley-Newton. This book will add a delightful flair to your home or classroom library.
1. The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levison and Vanessa Brantley-Newton. I saved my daughter’s favorite picture book of 2017 for last. Many of you may know the story of Ruby Bridges, however, Audrey Faye Hendricks was also a tiny and fierce freedom fighter. Do you know what Ruby and Audrey have in common? They were only in 1st Grade when they took their stand.
Therefore, Audrey and Ruby both changed the world while still learning how to read. Most noteworthy in this book, learn how The Children’s March was a turning point in Civil Rights History in the United States. I highly recommend reading how the “Civil Rights Queen” made her mark on the nation.
Bonus: Do not miss the recipe for hot buttered rolls at the end. This recipe will help children embrace different cultures through food traditions as well as teach reading through cooking.
In conclusion, I truly hope these books have inspired you to add the tradition of making a Multicultural Book Advent this year. No matter your theme or choice of books you can bring a little reading magic into your holiday traditions.
Book Giveaways for our Multicultural Book Advent
This year, many of these authors have donated their mighty girl picture books for our Multicultural Book Advent. I will be giving away books, as well as other bookish items throughout December on Instagram. Be sure to turn on the notifications for my profile to increase your chances of winning these amazing strong girl books and book-themed prizes.
Multiracial and Multicultural Books and Resources
You may also be interested in the following book lists for even more fabulous and fierce females. These girls are smashing the patriarchy with each and every page. #girlsbelonghere
- 5 Feminist Dads and Daughters in Picture Books
- 50 Diverse Children’s Books for Strong Girls
- Multiracial Children’s Literature Guide
- The Anatomy of a Diverse Bookshelf
I invite you to join our Multicultural Children’s Literature discussion in my Facebook group. Our dynamic group of talented educators and authors, as well as parents, are dedicated to teaching literacy skills with diverse books. This way, we can simultaneously raise global citizens as we raise readers.
*this post contains affiliate links
Get a FREE eBook Today
This FREE ebook is filled with expert strategies guaranteed to help your child learn HOW to read without using a curriculum. I use diverse and multicultural books and resources to teach kids to read the world and become global citizens as well as successful readers!
Subscribe here for your FREE eBook The Importance of Reading Aloud: A Parent's Guide.