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embrace diverse characters and themes for #diverseread #rwpchat

February 28, 2017

I’d like to share some of my favourite books and authors who are from diverse backgrounds and who embrace diverse characters and themes. These titles are not exhaustive but represent some of my favourites that I’ve shared at story time, read to family or on my own. Reading and accessing diverse books is essential at story time and at school.  It is necessary for young people to identify  themselves in the characters and to be aware that all the emotions and trials that stories can embed in us are theirs and can enrich them like all stories can.  It also encourages all young people to read, learn and enjoy these stories too.

I have a vivid memory when I was in year two at our end of year presentation receiving an award and book as a gift.  I remember the book with fondness,A Nice Walk in the Jungle’ by Nan Bodsworth. I was transfixed by this book as the characters  comprised of students who looked exactly like students in my class, ethnically diverse and  who were one by one gobbled up by a cheeky boa constrictor without the teacher noticing.

‘Ramadan Moon’ by Na’aim Roberts

This exquisite designed book combines paper collage and drawing with a beautiful story. ‘Ramadan Moon’ is about the acts of fasting, charity, and prayer during Ramadan. Narrated in the first person, a girl takes us through the month of Ramadan illustrating acts that are fulfilled during this special month.

Watch the story


‘Handa’s Surprise’ by Eileen Browne

I read ‘Handa’s Surprise’ at our bilingual story times, usually as a bilingual English and Arabic book at my library because it’s such a fantastic story. Handa who lives in a village, is on the way to meet her friends with seven delicious fruits in a basket. As she walks to meet her friends jungle animals slowly take each of the fruits without her knowledge. But then a goat charges at a tangerine tree and fills Handa’s basket with fruit to her surprise. Richly illustrated and full of beautiful fruits and wild animals, ‘Handa’s Surprise’ is the perfect read  for young children.

Watch the animation of this story here:


‘Mirror’ by Jeannie Baker

This book had me at the cover, or should I say covers, a story amazingly and intricately designed to tell a story of two boys, one in Sydney, Australia and another in Morocco, North Africa. ‘Mirror’ reflects two lives that seemingly have little in common but when the stories are simultaneously read, more and more is revealed about what binds the boys together. If you ever thought a book could not do this then you definitely need to experience ‘Mirror’.

Watch it here :

‘Azzi in Between’ by Sarah Garland

‘Azzi in Between’ is about a refugee child who is forced from her wartorn country to another country. We witness Azzi’s alienation at primary school. We feel for her demoralised father who is not allowed to work in this country and we rejoice as their family life improves. It is story that isdeeply moving, transcendent, and empathetic.

I love Me” by Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina

I love reading any story written by Sally Morgan or Ambelin Kwaymullina and when these two talented authors join together, they are bound to craft an inspiring and positive story.  In ‘I Love Me’, these authors have created a fabulous and powerfully worded story of self-esteem and self-acceptance for indigenous and non-indigenous kids everywhere. This story is perfect to share at story time.

We’ve all heard about the hashtag #weneeddiversebooks, a movement that was established with the aim to promote and to ensure more kids have access to and read books that are inclusive and feature diverse characters. You may also have heard of the hashtag #loveOZYA a hashtag to promote the importance of Australian authors in young adult literature, many of whom are diverse or come from diverse backgrounds.  These movements that highlight diversity are fabulous and necessary as they present an alternative to what is currently available for young people to read. These movements also highlights the importance of diversity, that is, of including rich, deep, and often wildly beautiful literature that engages, inspires and moves ALL young people.

What other stories are your favourite? Which are the ones you keep going back to and sharing with young people? What other diverse stories could be shared at story time?

Let’s chat via Twitter @kanjhiba

Hiba Kanj


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