Category Archives: Multicultural

DIA! DIVERSITY IN ACTION

Library building with "Dia! Diversity In Action" text

April 30th of each year is the culmination of Dia! Diversity in Action.

Dia! Diversity In Action

Also known as El dia de los ninos/El dia de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day), Dia! is a nationwide initiative from the American Library Association that helps libraries connect their patrons to more bilingual and multicultural resources.

One of the primary goals of Dia! is to encourage families of all backgrounds to read daily with their children in their home language. They want to honor and maintain cultural diversity by helping families find bilingual books and other resources to nurture literacy development.

Importance of Multicultural Libraries

Our country’s population is becoming increasingly diverse. Often, new immigrants are struggling to learn English, while maintaining a connection with their heritage. Public libraries have stepped up to welcome these newcomers, and also to celebrate the diversity of our communities.

Many libraries are using creative strategies to reach their patrons, like offering multilingual storytimes, increasing their book holdings in more languages, and offering specialized workshops tailored to meet the needs of immigrant families.

Diversity In Action

Ready to take action in your own community? Check out the official website for Dia! to get free resources, like book lists, coloring pages, planning guides and more. There’s even a toolkit to help you start your own bilingual book club. They also offer guidance on advocacy, and action steps for those who are interested in getting more involved with the Dia! mission.

Multicultural Good Luck Charms

Have you ever picked up a lucky penny? Or rubbed a rabbit’s foot for good luck? Cultures around the world have different lucky charms. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a superstitious person, you may have “knocked on wood” after making a statement, or felt the urge to toss salt over your shoulder after it was spilled.

Whether you believe in good luck or not, here are a few lucky charms from around the world. The reasons behind them might be compelling enough to make you a talisman collector, too.

Acorns

England

Long before acorns were considered good luck, they were associated with magic between two witches. When passing each other in the woods, witches would hand each other acorns to let one another know who they were and that they were safe in one another’s company.

As a good luck symbol, acorns are said to protect one’s health. Carrying an acorn is believed to protect from illnesses, aches, and other pains. If you’re already ill, it is said to speed up the healing process and alleviate any pain.

Cornicello

Italy

cornicello-charm

This Italian horn known as “cornicello” has been used since ancient times to ward off the evil eye. It is still a common good luck symbol in Italy and is often worn by nursing mothers and pregnant woman. It was also used to maintain happiness in marriage, as many believe the evil eye can affect marriages and relationships.

The inspiration for the horn shape comes from many different sources. For some horns, the shape of a chili pepper served as inspiration. Historians differ, pointing to the African eland horn as inspiration instead. Over time, the cornicello has become more stylized and can appear in many different shapes, some of which no longer even look like a horn.

Dala horse

Sweden

dala-horse-charm

Dala, or Dalecarlian, horses were first carved hundreds of years ago as a Swedish pastime. Horses were considered a holy animal, so many Swedes would use scraps from wooden furniture and other projects to craft horse figurines.

Today, the horse is also a symbol of good luck. Dala horses are often quite costly, so many people will buy unpainted ones and add the art themselves. Typical colors are red, white, or green, and in addition to good luck, the horse is thought to bring strength and dignity. It is also recognized as the unofficial symbol of Sweden.

Dream catcher

United States

dreamcatcher-good-luck-charms

The Chippewa Native American dream catcher is used for those with trouble sleeping, specifically those with nightmares. When the person is asleep, the dreamcatcher is said to trap all the nightmares of the sleeper, to bestow good luck, and allow good dreams to flow freely.

Legend has it that when the sun rises, the bad dreams caught in the dream catcher dissolve, as they cannot survive daylight. The Chippewa, or Ojibwa, Native Americans designed these dream catchers to help protect their children. The tradition is associated with the Asibikaashi, or Spider Woman, a woman from Ojibwa legend who was a caretaker of all children.

Elephant

India and Thailand

Elephants as a symbol for good luck are common all over Asia, but they are especially prominent in India and Thailand. They symbolize strength, power, stability, and wisdom. Many people believe that an elephant facing your door will bring good luck into your home. As a result, many business owners in Asia will place elephants in the entrance of their shops for good luck.

The common belief is that the trunk must be up for good luck, and some go so far as to say that the trunk facing downwards brings bad luck. Others believe that a trunk facing down allows for good fortune to be passed freely among everyone, not just the beholder.

Four-leaf clover

Ireland

four-leaf-clover-good-luck-charms

The odds of finding a four-leaf clover is allegedly 1 in 10,000, which is why it’s considered so lucky. The four sides symbolize faith, hope, luck, and love, and anyone who finds it is said to have great fortune that day.

One Christian legend claims that Eve took a four-leaf clover with her after being banished from Paradise to remind her of it. Four is also considered a masculine number and relates to the four sides of the cross, so some believe that the four-leaf clover is a piece of Paradise or the Garden of Eden.

Hamsa

Israel and Middle East

hamsa-good-luck-charm

The Hamsa Hand, or Khamsa, is common in both Jewish and Muslim communities as a sign of good luck. This charm can be worn with the hand facing up or down. It is said to protect people from negative energy and bring happiness to the beholder.

Depending on the culture and community, the symbol of the hand bears different meanings. The word “hamsa” references the number five in Hebrew and is said to symbolize the five books of the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. In Islam, the five fingers are associated with the Five Pillars of Islam. The eye on the hand represents an eye that sees everything and watches out for the beholder.

Jin Chan

China

jin-chan-good-luck-charm

A famous feng shui charm, the jin chan, or “Golden Toad,” is popular in China as a symbol of luck and success. The frog is said to appear during a full moon, bearing good fortune and warding off any bad news. With only three legs, sitting in a pile of coins with a coin in its mouth, this frog can be traced back to Chinese legends.

According to legend, Daoist God Liu Hai encountered a fox he wanted to save and transform into a beautiful woman who would help him become a god. For this to occur, he needed to trick a frog into going into a well, and did so successfully. He used the frog’s power, and now Jin Chan is supposed to be Liu Hai.

Maneki Neko

Japan

maneki-neko-good-luck-charm

The Maneki Neko cat statue is characterized by its waving paw. “Neko” means cat in Japanese, and “maneki” means beckoning. If the left paw is raised, it’s believed that the cat will attract customers and bring good business to shop owners. If the right paw is raised, it’s believed to attract money and prosperity, making it the more common Maneki Neko style.

The Maneki Neko can also come in many different colors: white signifies happiness, black signifies protection, green signifies health, and calico signifies extreme good luck.

Milagros

Mexico

milagros-good-luck-charm

Milagros, which translates to mean “miracle” in Spanish, are small religious charms depicting angels, crosses, arms, legs, animals, and other subjects. They are often nailed to a cross or other religious object or carried in one’s pocket for good luck.

Each subject carries a different meaning. Milagros are often used with the institution known as manda, where a person asks for a favor from a saint. Upon doing so, they will then leave a milagro at a shrine of the saint they have asked a favor for.

Nazar

Turkey

nazar-good-luck-charm

The Nazar, or evil eye, is an amulet for protection against those without good intentions. The origin of the Nazar hails from Turkey and its neighboring countries. Unlike the Hamsa, the Nazar has no religious significance. Because of this, it has become popular in countries all over the world.

In Turkey, the Nazar is usually a beaded, blue jewel that is worn or used on personal items for protection. Though its meaning has been adapted to different cultures, it is frequently associated with protection from the evil eye, a malevolent glare from an onlooker.

Nenette and Rintintin

France

nenette-rintintin-good-luck-charm

Nenette and Rintintin are Parisian yarn dolls with various origin stories, many of which begin during World War I. Nenette, the boy doll, and Rintintin, the girl doll, were given as good luck charms to French soldiers or worn by Parisians to protect them during World War I raids.

A piece of yarn links Rintintin and Nenette and should not be broken. Additionally, people believed that the good luck charms should never be purchased, only given, or they would lose their protective powers.

Pigs

Germany

pig-good-luck-charm

“Glücksschwein” is a German expression that translates to “lucky pig.” In Germany, pigs are associated with fertility and good luck. They are often featured on cards expressing best wishes, especially around New Year. They can also be found in candy and there are treats shaped like pigs all over Northern Europe. Norway and Sweden also have phrases that translate to “lucky pig.”

Another common association with pigs is wealth. People all over the world store coins in piggy banks to attract future wealth and protect their earnings.

Pysanka

Ukraine

pysanka-good-luck-charm

A pysanka is an Easter egg decorated with intricate designs using a wax-resist method. Ukrainians have been decorating these eggs for many generations. They represent health, fertility, love, and wealth.

As times have changed, interpretations of the pysanky decor have evolved. Many symbols, such as the fish and cross, are now interpreted through the lens of Christianity. In pre-Christian times, a fish signified a plentiful catch, but it has since become commonly associated with Christ, the fisher of men. Despite this evolution in meaning, the designs themselves still emulate the pre-Christian era.

Scarab

Egypt

scarab-good-luck-charm

The scarab beetle as a good luck charm dates all the way back to 2345 B.C. The amulet of this beetle represented new creation and eternal life, and is associated with the Egyptian God of the Rising Sun, Khepri.

This good luck charm first emerged in Ancient Egypt.  Egyptians observing the scarab witnessed it roll dung across the ground and associated this with the sun’s journey across the sky. The scarab would also lay its eggs in the bodies of dead animals, something the Egyptians connected with life being created from dead matter.

Worry dolls

Guatemala

worry-dolls-good-luck-charm

Unlike many of the other good luck charms you’ll find around the world, Guatemalan worry dolls are created to help someone fall asleep. They are particularly popular with children, though they are a common gift for anyone with mild anxiety who is struggling to fall asleep or who needs luck getting a good night’s rest.

As they are getting ready to fall asleep, the person holds the doll and tells it their troubles. The worries are then passed on to the doll and away from the person. However, some believe each doll can only manage one trouble at a time. For additional worries or fears, the person needs additional dolls.

Unique Good Luck Charms

We’ve created a visual with our favorite good luck charms. Next time you visit another country, be on the lookout for one of these good luck charms—and consider bringing along one of your own. It never hurts to trade a bit of good luck with a stranger, even if it’s just a lucky coin for them to carry in their pocket.

This article was adapted, with permission, from one originally posted on invaluable’s website.

This post was shared on the Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop, a place where bloggers can share multicultural activities, crafts, recipes, and musings for our creative kids.

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop

What Can World Folk Tales & Fables Teach Us?

earth with background of world folk tales

March 17th marks the start of World Folk Tales & Fables Week 2019. What kind of valuable life lessons can be learned from folk tales and fables? Read on for a free lesson plan and activity ideas to help bring world folk tales and fables into your home or classroom.

Folk Tale or Fable?

Folk tales are stories passed down through generations of people. Fables are just one type of folk tale – short stories, often featuring talking animals, that teach a lesson. These fables are crafted to appeal to children. Aesop, believed to have lived around 560 BC, is one the most well-known fable creators.

The simplified story lines and characters of folk tales and fables make them great for teaching life lessons to little ones. Stories tend to develop quickly, with a central conflict and a satisfying resolution. Some of these tales feature rhymes or line repetition, making them practically irresistible to the youngest of readers.

What Do Folk Tales Have to Teach Us?

In addition to the classic morals taught (think rewards of hard work in The Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat, and why Goldilocks should have used her manners with those bears), folk tales are a great chance to introduce kids to other cultures and times.

Multilingual covers of children's book Little Red Hen

Travel to a far-off time and land with Chin Wah and his magical golden fish (The Dragon’s Tears), or meet the famous Bengali woman (in Buri and the Morrow) who must outsmart the forest creatures who want to gobble her up!

Reading world folk tales and fables with the kids in your family or classroom is a great opportunity to teach, bond and work on literacy skills.

Folk Tales: Resources & Recommendations

Download our free multicultural lesson plans. Several of these plans incorporate folk tales and fables to build literacy stills and explore different cultures. For example, the “Language, Customers, Culture in India” lesson plans utilize the folk tale Buri and the Marrow as a way to learn about Indian cultures and customs with your students. The “Building Community in the Classroom” lesson plans use The Giant Turnip to promote discussion about community and cooperation, while examining diverse countries.

Explore our site for numerous bilingual world folktales and fables in many languages. We also offer the Myths and Legends collection (bilingual versions of Pandora’s Box, Isis and Osiris, Beowulf, The Children of Lir), which can be a good starting point for older children to explore classic stories from other cultures.

What are your favorite folk tales? Comment below and let us know!

Image is derivative of “Blue Marble” by NASA, Reto Stöckli, Robert Simmon

Multicultural Picture Books & Reviews

A page from the bilingual children's book Samira's Eid

Language Lizard was thrilled to be a sponsor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCBD), a movement to bring attention to the need for more multicultural children’s books in classrooms and libraries. Check out our previous post about the importance of books that feature diverse characters and multicultural stories.

We enjoyed discussing issues about multicultural books with educators, authors and parents as part of the #ReadYourWorld Twitter party in January. If you missed it, be sure to sign up for the MCBD newsletter so you can join in next year.

As part of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, we shared a few of our favorite bilingual multicultural books with bloggers and book reviewers, and we’re excited to share their feedback here.

Welcome to the World Baby

Reviewed by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

The Giant Turnip

Reviewed by Claire Annette Noland at A Field Trip Life and author Brittany J. Thurman

What is Peace?

Reviewed by illustrator Emma Damon 

Grandma’s Saturday Soup

Reviewed by Tiffany at Imagiread

Yeh Hsien, A Chinese Cinderella

Reviewed by Sheki at Greatly Blessed

Samira’s Eid

Reviewed by Emily at TableLifeBlog

Deepak’s Diwali

Reviewed by Valarie at Jump Into a Book

Multicultural Children’s Books #ReadYourWorld

Child looking through the pages of a book

Language Lizard is a proud sponsor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day on January 25, 2019. Children’s books that showcase diverse, multicultural characters have long been underrepresented on the shelves of libraries and bookstores. Here’s why the next time you’re book shopping, you’ll want to make multicultural children’s books a top priority.

We Need More Multicultural Children’s Books

Book page featuring diverse characters

Of the 3,700 children’s books reviewed by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in 2017, only 25% featured non-white characters. While this is an improvement over the 10% in 2014 , clearly publishers still have a long way to go. Beyond that, we also need libraries and bookstores to carry more multicultural books, so that teachers, parents and children can have access to them.

When you’re selecting your next set of books, seek out ones that challenge stereotypes by featuring positive and realistic multicultural characters who will be empowering role models to young readers. Look for books with story lines that have universal appeal, so every child will be enthusiastic about reading.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day – January 25, 2019

Poster for Multicultural Children's Book Day 2019

Support Multicultural Children’s Book Day on January 25, 2019!

Use #ReadYourWorld on social media, and share your love of diverse characters and multicultural stories. It’s an easy way to help get more multicultural children’s books out into the world. There were 3.2 billion social media shares for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2018… let’s beat that number this year!

Go to the event’s website and find other ways to support this great cause. There’s a free classroom poverty kit, diversity books lists and activities.

#ReadYourWorld on January 25, 2019

Check out their eBook fundraiser – all of the proceeds will be used to gift books to teachers for their classroom libraries!

Multicultural Stories & Book Sets

Children's book about multicultural holidays

Language Lizard offers numerous books that celebrate diversity and teach children about different cultures. We offer bilingual multicultural stories in a choice of over 50 languages, as well as English-only book sets that focus on cultural holidays and traditions around the world.

Christmas Around the World

"Merry Christmas" in many languagesguest post by Edmond Gubbins

Teaching in a small, rural, primary school rooted in the Catholic ethos in Ireland, Christmas is a central tradition celebrated by the students. Each year in December, the children perform a Christmas pageant, attended by their families and fellow schoolmates. However, my colleagues and I decided that, this year, we would divert from telling the traditional story of the birth of Jesus Christ and the Nativity and move instead toward teaching a more inclusive Christmas story, one that authentically captures the experiences of children from a range of diverse backgrounds. It is from this theme: “Christmas Around the World” that my journey into fostering an appreciation for the diversity of Christmas customs among my students originated.

Fostering an Appreciation for Diversity

As a teacher of 2nd and 3rd class students (ages 8-10), the children I teach have grown up hearing about the customs and stories familiar to them and their families during Christmas time. I wanted to push their understanding of this holiday and help them realize that the celebration of important feasts and festivals are dependent on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) their nationality, belief systems, family values and personal identity. We have done much work this school year already on the concept of identity and how our identity shares features that are common to other people, distinct from other people and unique to ourselves. Arising from this conceptual understanding, it made sense to take our Christmas show in a similar direction and investigate some of the traditions in December through a multicultural lens. What better way to do it than through the medium of drama, where the children can truly step into the shoes of another and see Christmas traditions from a multitude of perspectives?

“Our show will help you see that Christmas isn’t the same for you and me!”

My students and I have learned much from this project. As we looked at how Christmas is celebrated in Poland through a retelling of Marek and Alice’s Christmas in class one day, discussion naturally followed about how the holiday is marked in other countries. There are some fantastic resources online that we used in devising the script for the show. Writing a script for over 30 excited children, making sure that every child has their time to shine on stage, while also allowing them to learn about cultures different from their own was no easy task, let me tell you! However, now that rehearsals have started, I can tell already that it is a project that has been worthwhile for my own knowledge but also for the children’s attitudes of acceptance and appreciation of diversity.

So what does Christmas look like around the world?

Our pageant looks at some of the customs, foods and songs associated with Christmas in a host of countries. For example, in certain parts of Russia, many people do not eat on Christmas Eve until the first star has appeared in the night sky. Families then eat 12 courses of food to represent the 12 disciples of Jesus. My children were fascinated to learn about the tradition of eating kutia, a porridge-like meal, during the Christmas feast. All the family eats from the same bowl to symbolise unity. Some families even hold the custom of throwing a spoonful of kutia up onto the ceiling and, if it sticks, they hope to enjoy good luck for the year ahead.

The traditional Christmas songs or carols that the children have been learning since they started primary school quite often originated in another country and from another language. For example, the song “O Christmas Tree” was originally in German and called “O Tannenbaum.” Other songs, such as “O Holy Night” (originally a French song), “Deck the Halls” (from Wales) and “The Little Drummer Boy” (from Czech Republic) are much loved by both children and adults alike. Part of our show sees the children singing the well-known song “Silent Night” in 3 languages – English, Irish, and German, the language it was originally sung in. The lyrics, with a phonetic pronunciation are here if you’d like try it yourself:

"Silent Night" lyrics in German

Ho, Ho, Who?

Of course, one of the most exciting parts of Christmas for children is the receiving of presents. In Ireland, Santa Claus (or Daidí na Nollag in the Irish language) travels around the country on his sleigh, delivering presents to all the boys and girls who have been good. Children usually go to visit Santa in the weeks leading up to Christmas to let Santa know what they would like him to deliver to them.

Our show has a scene where Santas from other countries are being interviewed about how they deliver presents to children where they come from. In the Netherlands, Santa is called Sinterklaas. He usually travels on a white horse, wearing a tall hat with a jewelled staff in hand as he travels through the night. His companion Grumpus is said to rattle his chains at children who are naughty!

In France, Père Noël wears a long red cloak to keep warm. Children leave their shoes out by the fireplace on Christmas Eve night in the hope that they will be filled full of presents when they wake on Christmas morning.

In Russia, Ded Moroz or “Father Frost” is assisted by Snegurochka (meaning “Snow Maiden”) on Christmas Eve night. You’d better watch out though because he has been known to kidnap naughty children!

In Italy, the tradition of the jolly man wearing red is quite different! La Befana is a witch who travels around on her broomstick every year to deliver gifts to children. Sometimes, she may even sweep the floors of the houses she visits with her broomstick to sweep away any bad luck. Both the children and I had never heard of this particular tradition and many were eager to play this part in the show.

Piquing the children’s natural interest in the figure of Santa Claus provided a rich stimulus for discussion about traditions that their own families celebrated. Some children in my class contacted relatives in other countries in places as far from Ireland as Australia to hear about how they eat their Christmas dinner on the beach!

Before the Curtain Goes Up

What has been gained from looking at Christmas from an international lens? Undoubtedly, the children’s knowledge has broadened in myriad ways through our exploration of the theme “Christmas Around the World.” In investigating the traditions, foods and songs of other countries, the children have been enabled to hold a mirror up to their own traditions and see similarities and differences between their culture and the cultural identities of other boys and girls around the world. Through music, dance, and drama, the children are very tangibly realising that the holiday of Christmas may be celebrated differently around the world, but that does not make it any less special. Our show hasn’t even been performed yet, but I hope the children will remember it and what it has taught them for many years to come.

Edmond Gubbins is a 2nd and 3rd class elementary teacher from County Limerick in Ireland. Owing to his extensive work with Language Lizard during the completion of his Master’s in Education at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, he has a keen interest in multiculturalism and fostering an appreciation for diversity in his students.

Unique Multicultural Gifts for the Holidays

bilingual shirts and mugs

Celebrate diversity and show your support for bilingualism with these fun and unique gifts! Perfect for bilingual students and teachers in diverse classrooms.

Discounts on ALL Bilingual Book Sets – Available in 40+ languages!

We hand-selected our most popular titles for bilingual book sets to save you time and money. All books include English and one other language of your choice. Tailored to meet the language needs of teachers and librarians, they make ordering easy! Our book sets include the most accessible, popular, and culturally appropriate books for the children you want to reach.

Exclusive PENpal Interactive Literacy Sets are a great way to support dual language learners! We offer an extensive selection of literacy sets that include the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, along with our award-winning bilingual “talking books.”

Discount is applied during checkout – no code needed!

Multilingual Posters – Great for teachers with diverse classrooms!

To help you decorate your multicultural classroom or library, we are offering a discount on our multilingual poster 3-pack. This set of 3 posters lets you display “Hello,” “Thank You” and “Welcome” in over 30 languages. The discount is available online – no coupon code required.

Unique T-shirts & Mugs Celebrate Diversity and Bilingualism!

bilingual shirtsWe’re excited to offer new multicultural t-shirts that celebrate bilingualism and diversity with messages like: Welcome Your Friends (with “HELLO” in different languages), I’m Bilingual, What’s Your Superpower? and We All Smile in the Same Language.

There are many more design and color options available at our Amazon store, as well as bilingual, Spanish-only, French and German versions of some of the designs.

bilingual mugsSimilar designs promoting multiculturalism are also available on mugs! (Note that there are multiple pages.)

Gift Certificates – Let Recipients Choose What They’d Like!

Language Lizard gift certificates are great for students, teachers, librarians, and others who support dual-language children. Your recipients can choose books in over 50 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Gujarati, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Japanese, Nepali, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese and more!

You can select gift certificates in any value, add a special note of thanks, and have them sent via email within one business day!

4 Musical Multicultural Kid Crafts

Music is an wonderful way to introduce kids to different cultures. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” It can evoke emotions that are at the heart of the shared human experience. Here, we offer four musical multicultural kid crafts that celebrate diversity and remind us of what we all have in common. Try them with your little ones at home or school! Continue reading 4 Musical Multicultural Kid Crafts

5 Multicultural Games for Kids to Try This Summer

Kids playing outdoorsIf you’re looking for something fun to do this summer, give these multicultural games from around the world a try! From games that you can play in a group, to one-on-one games, they are perfect for all ages. Get your kids or campers outdoors to play a fun round of Catching Stars or a competitive game of Hoops! It’s a great way to stay active this summer while learning about different cultures. Continue reading 5 Multicultural Games for Kids to Try This Summer