READ IN Week is an annual event devoted to raising awareness about the importance of reading. Although literacy and learning events happen throughout the year at the University of Alberta and around the city, READ IN Week is a special time for Edmontonians to celebrate reading and plan their own reading-centred events—in classrooms, libraries, community centres, workplaces and more.
This year's theme is “One World, Many Voices.” The librarians at the U of A's H.T. Coutts Education Library have come up with their list of 15 books that capture that theme of diversity. All books can be borrowed through U of A Libraries or the Edmonton Public Library.
15. The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry (1993)
The many different animals that live in a great kapok tree in the Brazilian rainforest try to convince a man with an axe of the importance of not cutting down their home.
14. Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco (1996)
An injured goose rescued by Babushka, having broken the painted eggs intended for the Easter Festival in Moskva, lays 13 marvellously coloured eggs to replace them, then leaves behind one final miracle in egg form before returning to her own kind.
13. First Crossings: Stories About Teen Immigrants by Donald R. Gallo (2007)
Recommended for readers in Grade 7 and up, First Crossings is a collection of stories by well-known authors which touch on a variety of teen experiences. The contemporary teen immigrants in this book hail from a mix of countries—Cambodia, Haiti, Kazakhstan, Mexico, South Korea—and a wide range of cultural and economical backgrounds, ensuring these stories will speak to young adults anywhere.
12. My Name Is Yoon by Helen Recorvits (2003)
A powerful and inspiring picture book recommended for children from kindergarten to Grade 2, this is the story of a Korean girl's difficult adjustment to her new life in America. Disliking her name as written in English, little 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.
11. Orani: My Father's Village by Claire A. Nivola (2011)
In this children's book, praised for its beautiful illustrations, author and illustrator Claire A. Nivola explores the village of Orani, the tiny hamlet in the mountains of central Sardinia where her father lived before moving to New York during the Second World War.
10. A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers; illustrations by Sam Winston (2016)
Published this year, this book is described by Booklist as “a celebration of the child’s world, illustrated in sumptuous double-page spreads featuring explosions of images borrowed from unforgettable sources” and “an irresistible invitation to read.”
9. War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay; illustrations by Daniel Lafrance (2013)
When 14-year-old Jacob is brutally abducted and forced to become a child soldier, he struggles to hold on to his sanity and the will to escape. This intense graphic novel is based on the acclaimed novel of the same title. The author spent time in Uganda and based this story on real-life accounts of the horrors inflicted on child soldiers and their victims. While the story is brutal and harrowing, it is also a tale of hope, courage, friendship and family.
Warning: the book trailer below includes depictions of violence which may be upsetting to some viewers.
8. Mooncakes by Loretta Seto (2013)
Mooncakes is the lyrical story of a young girl who shares the special celebration of the Chinese Moon Festival with her parents. As they eat mooncakes, drink tea and watch the night sky together, Mama and Baba tell ancient tales of a magical tree that can never be cut down, the Jade Rabbit who came to live on the moon and one brave woman's journey to eternal life.
7. Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan (2012)
Magnificently capturing the colourful world of Islam for the youngest readers, this breathtaking and informative picture book recommended for children aged three to seven celebrates Islam's beauty and traditions. From a red prayer rug to a blue hijab, everyday colours are given special meaning as young readers learn about clothing, food and other important elements of Islamic culture, with a young Muslim girl as a guide.
6. Nana and Me by Kathy Knowles (2015)
Prior to creating Nana and Me, Winnipegger Kathy Knowles asked 100 children from Ghana, West Africa, to write about their grandmothers. This delightful picture book follows a young girl and her grandmother through a day of tea parties, dancing, hide and seek, pat-a-cake, bath time, story time and bedtime. At the end of the story the little girl discovers why she is so extra special. Recommended for children aged four to eight.
5. Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts by Jane Yolen (2013)
Jane Yolen’s dynamic, enchanting retellings of Jewish tales from around the world come together with recipes from her daughter Heidi Stemple in this book for readers of all ages. Discover creative versions of classic dishes—from challah to matzo brei to pomegranate couscous, tzimmes chicken and rugelach—in combination with folk tales, fun facts and anecdotes.
4. The Highest Mountain of Books in the World by Rocio Bonilla (2016)
A boy who wants to fly discovers the many ways that books can take him to the greatest heights. Translated from Spanish.
3. Anna Carries Water by Olive Senior (2013)
Anna fetches water from the spring every day, but she can't carry it on her head like her older brothers and sisters can. In this charming and poetic family story set in Jamaica, prize-winning author Olive Senior shows young readers the power of determination as Anna achieves her goal and overcomes her fear.
2. Missing Nimâmâ by Melanie Florence (2015)
A young mother, one of Canada’s many missing Indigenous women, watches over her small daughter as she grows up. A free-verse story conveying the human side of a national tragedy, the book includes an afterword by the author that provides a simple, age-appropriate context for young readers.
1. Nokum Is My Teacher by Dave Bouchard; paintings by Allen Sapp; singing and drumming by Northern Cree Singers (2006)
Featured at the READ IN Week 2016 kickoff event at the U of A, the award-winning Nokum Is My Teacher is the poetic story of a young Cree boy posing questions to his grandmother, his “Nokum,” about the wider world beyond the familiarity of their home and community. Nokum offers her grandson a vision of a world he can enter through imagination and reading, while retaining respect for the ways of his people. By the conclusion of the book, the young grandson has learned many new ideas from his grandmother and discovered his own wisdom in dealing with the changes in his life. The text is in English and Cree, and the book is accompanied by a bilingual Cree and English audio recording.
Want to add more books to your reading list? Check out the Canadian Children's Book Centre, a national, not-for-profit organization dedicated to encouraging, promoting and supporting the reading, writing, illustrating and publishing of Canadian books for young readers.
— This article was originally published in Illuminate, the online magazine from the Faculty of Education.