Bowls of Happiness: Exploring Chinese Culture through Books

I feel very strongly that a comprehensive world view is important in today’s society.  In our homeschool we strive to develop an awareness of other cultures and lifestyle choices by reading great books, diving deeply into history, and immersing ourselves in other cultures through our travels around the world.

As our communities become more diverse, many parents are looking for literature and other tools to help their children develop a deeper understanding of their neighbors.

Through our studies of Mandarin language, we have developed a greater understanding of the Chinese culture than I had dreamed possible. My children enjoy cooking Chinese foods and celebrating many of the holidays unique to China (Mid-Autumn Festival, for example).

multiculturalbooksdayI received these books in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions below are mine and I was not required to write a positive review. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Exploring Chinese Culture with Children’s Books

One of the best ways to learn about another culture is through children’s books. China Institute has published four hardcover books about the Forbidden City, one of the world’s most fascinating landmarks. Each of the books will have its own interactive e-book app, which will feature a bilingual option to toggle between reading and listening in English and Chinese.

For Younger Readers

Bowls of Happiness: Treasures from China and the Forbidden City by Brian Tse  teaches children about Chinese artwork and culture and their universal spirit of generosity, love, and respect for nature. The loveable illustrations are coupled with photographs of porcelain art found in the Palace Museum’s collection.

After reading the story, my kids both wanted to create their own bowl of happiness. We went to a local pottery studio and painted our own. I’ll be posting pictures about this experience on Facebook and Instagram very soon.

Brian Tse has also authored This is the Greatest Place! The Forbidden City and the World of Small Animals. This charming book teaches children about Chinese architecture, how nature’s influence can be seen around us, and how people and animals can live together in harmony. The illustrations capture the majesty of both the natural world and the Forbidden City and are enhanced by interactive components for readers, including a gatefold spread and lift-flaps.

multiculturalbooksdayFor Older Readers

In the book What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor? Life in China’s Forbidden City by Chiu Kwong-chiu and Eileen Ng readers will journey through the average life of an emperor and learn about the real people who lived in the palace, including the prince who fought off a rebel invasion, the palace maids who lived in the Inner Court, the emperor who ruled twice, and the emperor who loved crickets. This book can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, with lively illustrations that encourage reader interaction.

In the Forbidden City by Chiu Kwong-chiu is a large format book which conveys the grandeur of the Forbidden City through highly detailed line drawings of its buildings, gardens, and courtyards with numerous foldout spreads. Each page is populated by a large variety of characters and peppered with entertaining anecdotes. Every book includes a plastic magnifying glass for looking at the drawings more closely.

Be sure to check out the lesson plans and interactive activities that accompany these delightful books.

forbiddencity

Multicultural Children’s Book Day

The Mission

The mission of the Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCCBD) is to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book.

The annual Multicultural Children’s Book Day is made possible by a team of 12 amazing Co-Hosts (you can view them here), the initiative’s non-profit status, and 200 participating bloggers like me.

We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

The Reading Challenge

The Multicultural Children’s Book Day Classroom Reading Challenge is a special project connected to Multicultural Children’s Book Day ~ 26th January 2016 ~ that gives classrooms the opportunity to earn a FREE Diversity Book for their class!

The goal of the reading challenge is to help teachers build their classroom library with diverse, inclusive and multicultural books! This special project is free of charge to all teachers and schools and helps MCCBD achieve their mission of getting multicultural books into the hands of young readers and teachers. The MCCBD 2016 Classroom Reading Challenge has begun, learn more here.

MCBookDay-white-21-300x234Special thanks to all our Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors:

Platinum: Wisdom Tales Press * StoryQuest Books * Lil Libros
Gold: Author Tori Nighthawk * Candlewick Press
Silver: Lee and Low Books * Chronicle Books * Capstone Young Readers
Bronze: Pomelo Books * Author Jacqueline Woodson * Papa Lemon Books * Goosebottom Books * Author Gleeson Rebello * ShoutMouse Press * Author Mahvash Shahegh * China Institute.org

Reading Challenges for Parents & Teens

There are all kinds of reading challenges out there, some are genre-specific while others are truly arbitrary. No matter how the challenge is designed, the ultimate goal is to help you read more and that is always a good thing.

Even for those you love reading, it can be easy to let it fall by the wayside. This is certainly true for me! Life gets busy. Dirty dishes have piled up in the sink. The kids need help with this or that. Admittedly, my phone seems to scream at me!! “Pick me up! I have important notifications you must read NOW!”

Reading Challenges for Parents & Teens @EvaVarga.netBefore I know it, I’ve run out of hours in the day for reading. If I try to read a little before bed, I’m too tired to finish even a page. It’s alarmingly easy to let it slip. When I realize I haven’t read a book for fun in a month, I am shocked and disappointed.

We all want to read more. Yet to achieve this goal we need something more quantifiable. That is where a reading challenge can help – you’re not just trying to fulfill some vague goal of “read more.”

Family Five Book Talk

One of the easiest ways we have found to assure that my husband and I read more is to give a book talk at our monthly Family Five Share. For years we had expected the kids to share what they are reading. Then one day Jeffrey asked, “Why do we call this a Family Five Share when you and Dad don’t share? Shouldn’t it be called Kids Share?”  Light bulb – of course!

Banned Books

One of my favorite reading challenges is reading banned books. Not only is it important, it is usually pretty interesting; we all know that boring stuff doesn’t get banned. The whole idea is to have fun and read some books that censors have tried to keep off the shelves. There isn’t one specific list to work from, but there are many different resources you can check out for ideas:

  • The ALA’s lists of frequently challenged books. There are multiple lists split up by author, year, decade, and a separate list for classics, so there are a lot of options from all different genres.
  • GoodReads has several listopia lists on the subject — this is particularly helpful for identifying books you already have on your shelves if you are a user of the site.
  • The Banned Books Week Facebook Page is great about reporting current information on bans and challenges.

Classic Great Books

Homeschool families that follow the classical model for education in no doubt are familiar with the Great Books or classics suggested by Susan Wise Bauer in The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home. She has also published a companion guide for parents, The Well-Educated Mind.

In high school, the classical student actively engages with the ideas of the past and present — not just reading about them, but evaluating them, tracing their development, and comparing them to other philosophies and opinions.” For those interested, Bauer provides a list of Great Books for each year of study; the ninth grade list is the shortest, the twelfth-grade list the most complex.  

epic reads365 Days of YA

If you enjoy the Young Adult genre, you’ll love the 365 Days of YA by Epic Reads. “We have compiled a *full* reading list, with book recommendations for every season, month, week and day of 2015.”

Young-adult fiction or young adult literature, often abbreviated as YA, is fiction written, published, or marketed to adolescents and young adults. The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) defines a young adult as someone between the ages of twelve and eighteen.

The subject matter and story lines of YA literature are typically consistent with the age and experience of the main character, but YA literature spans the spectrum of fiction genres. Subject matter can be controversial, however – parental caution is advised.

The American Library Association also publishes a list of the best Young Adult books each year. It is a general list of fiction and nonfiction titles selected for their proven or potential appeal to the personal reading tastes of the young adult.

POP Sugar’s Challenge

This is a fun one! The writers at PopSugar have created a reading challenge that is not only fun, but will certainly diversify your reading. “From a book your mom loves to a book with a love triangle, we’re giving you a wide range of reads, spanning eras and genres, instead of specific books.” This list of 50 books (or technically 52 since one item is to read a trilogy) includes a checklist to make it easy – simply print it out and check each off as you go.

DeweyDecimalSystemDewey Decimal System

On Goodreads a short time ago, I read a review whereby the reader stated, “I read this book as part of my personal challenge to read a book from every ten places of the Dewey Decimal System.” My first impression was, “Really?! Why?” Then as I thought about it more, I realized how this one could broaden my horizons and force me to read books about things I wouldn’t normally choose.

Unfortunately, I fear the challenge will be dominated by the western world. To elaborate, the 400s are the language category. The 490s consist of pretty much every non-European language. Many European languages get 10 numbers all of their own, while all languages of East and Southeast Asia are in 495.

This brings me to my next challenge …

My Little Pocketbooks

Diversity on the Shelf

For too long it has been far too easy to read nothing but books by white people — and maybe not even notice that is what you were doing. “The aim of Diversity on the Shelf Challenge is add diversity to your bookshelf by reading books by authors of color and/or about a main character of color.”

People are taking to social media to express their desire for diversity in literature: more young adult novels starring protagonists of color, more multicultural writers recognized for their work, more female superheroes in fantasy, fewer stereotypical portrayals of minority characters in fiction — I don’t have to keep going. #WeNeedDiverseBooks is trending. 

Whether you have fallen into this trap or you’ve been adding diversity to your shelves for years, it never hurts to support more authors of color. As homeschoolers, we can add to the richness of our cultural geography and history studies by including books from the cultures we are studying.

Reading Challenges for Parents & Teens @EvaVarga.net52 Weeks 52 Books

Reading a book every week of the year is a challenge I have taken upon myself for many years. I haven’t always succeeded, but it is a fun way to keep me motivated.

I utilize Goodreads to keep track of the books I have read, am currently reading, as well as those I want to read in the future. I love that I can create my own lists as well as see recommendations from friends.

If you aren’t already familiar with Goodreads, I encourage you take some time to explore the site. It is a fabulous resource connecting readers with similar interests via challenges, book clubs, and even special author talks.

Other Challenges

How about you? Have you taken on a reading challenge yourself? What reading challenges have you and your teens enjoyed?