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Celebrate International Children's Book Day

Janelle Cox

Celebrate International Children's Book DayInternational Children's Book Day is an annual event that takes place on or around April 2. It coincides with the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen, a famous author known for many children's stories including "The Ugly Duckling" and "The Princess and the Pea." International Children's Book Day has been celebrated across the world since 1967 and helps inspire a love of reading and calls attention to children's books. Discover how you can celebrate this event with your students.

Bookjoy Around the World

This year's theme  is "Bookjoy around the World." Pat Mora, an honored poet and author coined the phrase "bookjoy" - the term represents the private pleasure that people experience while reading. The theme is designed to represent stories that connect people around the world. Here are a few titles from the 2013 Outstanding International Books List. The stories were chosen because they show the reader that heroism may look different, but is the same regardless of where you live in the world. Read these stories with your students and discuss how looking at the past can help them understand their current life. Remind them that, although we are all different and may live in different places around the world, we all share laughter.

Kindergarten - Grade 2

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  • Out of the Way! Out of the Way! Written by Uma Krishmaswami - Diversity of life in India.
  • John Jensen Feels Different written by Henrick Hovland - Celebrating differences.

Grades 3- 5

  • Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings written by Elizabeth Larid - Retelling of a 10th century poem by Ferdowsi.
  • The Stamp Collector written by Lanthier - Inspired by foreign stamps on letters from prison.

Grades 6-8

  • A Game for Swallows: To Die, to Leave, to Return written by Zeina Abirached - Explores the universal effect of conflict on children.
  • La Malinche: The Princess Who Helped Cortés Conquer the Aztec Empire written by Francisco Serrano - Conquest of the Aztecs.

Grades 9-12

  • A Beautiful Lie written by Irfan Master - India 1947.
  • Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War written by Deborah Ellis - Informational book of Afghan youth.

Traveling the World through Books

Through reading, children can take trips to faraway places and learn fascinating facts about foreign countries. Books give us the opportunity to learn about the world around us, even though we can’t physically be in that location. A fun way for children to travel the world is by reading international stories, meeting local authors and illustrators who have books published globally, and listening to authors read in different languages. Plan a global book day event at your school. Invite local authors to read to your students, purchase international books, and create stations where students can travel and get their passport stamped. Students will feel like they just traveled the world.

Folktales from Around the Globe

Introduce students to different countries and their unique cultures by reading the book "Stories to Solve: Folktales from Around the World" by George Shannon. Before reading each folktale indicate where the country is on the map, and provide students with a variety of artifacts from that country (you can also encourage students to bring in any artifacts they may have at home). After you have read the folktale, divide students into small groups and have them work together to solve the mystery challenge that is at the end of each folktale. Provide each group with a copy of the story to help them in their quest. 

International Children's Digital Library

The International Children's Digital Library (ICDL) is a website where teachers and librarians can gain access to international children's books. This site offers free digital books in a variety of languages. They also offer a teacher training manual where they provide you with information on how you can use the ICDL in your classroom. This manual is accompanied with activities that complement each story. Activities include; scavenger hunt, complete the story, and creative writing ideas. When celebrating International Children's Book Day with your students, use this site to gain access to an assortment of books from many cultures.

How are you going to celebrate Children's Book Day in your classroom? Do you have a great idea, or activity you would like to share? Share it with us in the comment section below.