Second-Grade Read-Aloud Resource: 50 Multicultural Books...

This summer I'm spending some time thinking about the picture books I will read to next year's second-grade class. My volunteer gig at an ethnically and economically diverse city public school is an all-time favorite activity of mine, but I'm always looking for ways to improve the experience for the children. When fall rolls around, I'd like to be better prepared with a strong list of books and additional background reading of my own.

Keeping in mind prior classes will help, too. For example, when we talk about "fiction" and "nonfiction," I'm going to put the words out on index cards so the children can see them written out. In lovely and heartfelt thank-you notes from the last group, a couple of the spellers-by-ear thought I was saying "fishin" and "nonfishin," which is adorable, but note cards will go a ways to clearing that up.

In terms of selecting books, this terrific list, among others, will come in handy: "50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know,"  from the Cooperative Children's Book Center, at the University of Wisconsin. It offers a good selection of titles, broken down into age groups ( "Preschool," "Ages 5-7," etc.). I wish I'd remembered to read Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding to the 2011-2012 students. Reading through these books this summer should be fun!

Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding (and the "50 Multicultural Books" List)

9780689844584 In Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding (published in 2006), author Lenore Look and illustrator Yumi Heo accomplish something remarkable: making an information book sing with emotion.

While the rest of her Chinese American family celebrates the nuptials of Stella and Peter, the book's narrator,  Jenny, is decidedly unhappy at what she fears is the loss of her uncle, "a girl's best buddy." In detailing her reaction to the big day's events, she explains Chinese traditions such as children's accompanying the groom to pick up the bride (for good luck), the tea ceremony "where the family officially welcomes the bride" (which Jenny, who's six or so, almost manages to sabotage), and the banquet and its array of treats and symbolic delicacies like long-life noodles. In the end, lovely Stella saves a special task for her new niece and thanks the little girl for "sharing [her] amazing uncle." Just the words Jenny needed to hear!

With big, round faces, kissy lips, and a flat kids-drawing perspective, Yumi Heo's illustrations cleverly reflect the book's child-centered point of view. The humor in both the art and the storytelling makes for a good read-aloud, too. If I were an elementary-school teacher, I'd add this one to the classroom library pronto.

The Cooperative Children's Book Center includes Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding on the recently revised list "50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know."  While "should know" is always an opinion (well-informed in CCBC's case), I find that the helpful list provides a lot of fuel for thought. I missed a number of the books on the first go-round, too, and am glad to catch up. CCBC recommends Look and Heo's picture book for children aged 5 to 7.

Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding. Written by Lenore Look and illustrated by Yumi Heo. Anne Schwartz/Atheneum, 2006.