We’ve been very lucky to travel with our kids and I hope we continue to get to do that as they grow up. But the travel we have done has made me realize that it’s pretty easy to go all over the world and learn very little about the places you’re seeing—actual cultural education requires curiosity, open-mindedness, probably some amount of discomfort, and STUDY. One of my primary goals for my kids’ education is to give them enough understanding of the world that they can put their own and other peoples’ experiences into context. Beyond that, centering our studies around different parts of the world gives us a launchpad for talking about so many subjects, from economics to religion to animals, and it’s SUPER FUN.
Here are a few great books for teaching young kids about the world around them:
I think this book should be on every kids’ bookshelf. An update on the classic, it features kids from all over the world and talks about where they live, their families, what they like to eat, what they do for school and for fun, etc. Each entry is full of colorful photographs (which my kids tend to be more drawn to than illustrations) and there’s a great variety represented. Both my 5-year-old and my 3-year-old will flip through this one independently for a long, long time.
This book takes a look at each continent, highlighting facts about both the geography and the cultures of different regions. It includes both a political and a geographical map of each continent and it’s nice to have both—one for seeing how the continent is divided up into countries and one for highlighting the different ecosystems.
My kids are reeeeeaallly into animals, and learning about the animals that live in various parts of the world is a great way, especially for young kids, to approach geographical and cultural differences. Similar in layout to the Beginner’s World Atlas (and from the same publisher), the Wild Animal Atlas is sectioned out by continent and talks about the animals and habitats that can be found in each place.
An illustrator’s version of several kids’ daily lives from all over the world, from what they eat for breakfast to what their teachers look like. At the end, you can see photos of the real kids the book is based on (which was my kids favorite part.)
The illustrated maps in this book are just beautiful and full of fun facts for kids to discover. Mine love choosing a country and asking me a thousand questions about each little pictures on its’ page. Only a handful of countries from each continent are represented, but they’re great conversation starters and my 5-year-old will look at this book for an hour at a time.
This is a sticker book (the stickers are vinyl so they’re reusable) that is fairly light on content, but does have some fun facts and gives kids a bunch of different activities centered around different parts of the world.
A large-scale book with great illustrations, this atlas features interesting locations, festivities and phenomenons from around the world. A great one for kids to flip through independently or to read aloud by section.
This book has a myth, fairy tale or legend for each week of the year and features stories from all around the world. As is typical with traditional stories, some can be a bit dark or gruesome—as a rule, we don’t avoid this in our home, but it’s something to be aware of!
Super simple text and beautiful large-scale pictures of kids from around the world going through their days. It’s not clear where each picture is from (i.e., the photos don’t chase after stereotypes), which I liked. In the back, there’s an index of where each photo was taken, so after looking through the book, we could trace the pictures around the world.
There are, of course, many MANY more books like these, and while these books mostly cover the world more broadly, I highly recommend seeking out books written by and representing people from specific regions. This book has great recommendations for books about people and places around the globe, and organizes its recs by country, which is very handy for preparing for travel or for planning a home study.
And just remember that ANY reading you do with your kids is one of the best possible things you can do for them, so find the books that inspire you to sit down and spend time reading aloud. If your kids are enjoying, they’re learning :).
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