March 2nd is Read Across America. In the past most libraries and schools celebrated this day by reading Dr. Seuss books and organizing Seuss-themed activities. Over the past couple of years the focus has shifted to emphasize multicultural and diverse literature. I am grateful for this change because it provides the perfect opportunity to share with students and parents a broader selection of children’s books and to create programs and activities that focus on acceptance, kindness and cultural diversity.
In this blog post I want to share with you some different activities and ideas that you can use in your own schools and libraries that go along with this new focus. These can not only be used for Read Across America Day. You can use them any time you want to have a reading celebration.
Choose an author who writes more diverse books or who features multicultural characters. Create a bulletin board display with the author’s name, a few biographical facts and the book covers of some of his or her books. Below are a few authors that I recommend.
- Ezra Jack Keats
- Patricia Polacco
- Tomie de Paolo
- Matt de la Pena
- Jacqueline Woodson
- Peter Reynolds
- Allen Say
Get Parents Involved
Ask parents and students to share a favorite book from their culture or country. You can ask for a picture of the child reading the book. Once you have some titles you can use them in many different ways.
- Have students draw/write about the book title. They can share why the book is important to them. Create a display with the posters and pictures. You can set up a display at a PTO meeting or your book fair (if the dates coincide).
- Post a world map and put a pushpin over every country that the students provided a book title for.
- Depending on the technology available in your school you could have the students create a slideshow of their book titles or even record a short video.
Hold a Culture Fair
This idea will obviously take a lot of planning and preparation. One way to do this is to assign each grade or class a country or culture to research. Or the students may choose to research their own country. Make sure students research the basics about each country/culture: geography, customs, food, holidays, art, and sports. Of course you can add or delete any of these topics from your list. Then once they have finished their research, students would create some kind of presentation. They can share their projects at an assembly or an after school event.
You can expand on this idea by inviting parents to come in and talk about their culture and experiences as well. You could have a taste testing of different foods from the cultures. You could have a fashion show or an art show. If you want to read more about hosting a culture fair at your school check out this website from Scholastic.
Reading Theme or Spirit Days
Spirit days are so much fun and you can still do them even if you are not doing Dr. Seuss themed activities! Here are a few I thought of.
- Reading is an Adventure
- Read Around the World
- Universe of Stories
- Build a Better World
- One World, Many Stories
- Read in your pajamas
- Flashlight Friday (read with flashlights in class)
- Snuggle up and read (with a stuffed animal)
- Readers are Leaders
- Read My Shirt Day
- Rainbow Day (wear as many colors as you can)
- Caps for Sale Day or any book where the character wears a hat
- Fairy Tale or Folktale Day (since many stories from other cultures were passed down from generation to generation)
Give students a reading log so they can record their reading. Depending on the grade they can keep track of the books they read or the minutes/pages read. When students turn in the log they can earn a prize. I usually have PTO donate small prizes or use my book fair money. I also like to create a hallway display of some kind showing the number of books or pages read by everyone in the school.
Other Read Across America Ideas
- Bookmark decorating contest
- Poster contest
- Door decorating
- Schedule an author visit
- Look online for authors who will do a Skype visit
- Invite guest readers to come in and read a book to students
- Hold a book tasting (read more about how to do this here)
- Display quotes about diversity and kindness
- Have your principal read a book over the loudspeaker or during the morning announcements
- Have DEAR time every day
- Have students write a letter to an author
- Have a book swap
- Hold a readathon
Multicultural and Diversity Reading Activity Pack
In my store I have added an activity pack that goes along perfectly with these ideas. You can use the activities during a Read Across America event or any time you want to have a celebration of reading. My goal in creating this product is to teach students to accept people who are different from them and to show empathy for others.
What is included in this activity pack:
- Reading logs to encourage reading at home. There are 3 different reading logs. One for younger grades, one for older grades and a generic weekly reading log. The reading logs also come in an editable PowerPoint so you can change the directions to suit your needs. Only the directions are editable.
- 9 color posters to display with quotes about diversity, respect and kindness
- Bookmarks to hand out to students (color and black and white)
- Random Acts of Kindness – cards and posters. Students can fill out a card every time someone is kind to them. Use the cards to create a kindness display. There are a variety of cards in both color and black and white. There are posters you can use for the display as well.
I created a few basic lessons on culture, diversity and kindness on three different levels so you will have an activity for all your students in a K-5 school.
- Cut and paste kindness sort (grades K/1)
- Kindness fill-in poster (grades K/1)
- 5-page mini book that gives the definition of culture and diversity. It also talks about respect and accepting others for their differences. (grades 2/3)
- Worksheet: students write/draw how they are the same and how they are different from one of their classmates. There is also a similar worksheet in a Venn diagram format. (grades 2-5)
- One-page biography of Malala Yousafzai for fourth and fifth grade students. Includes a reading comprehension page. There is also a worksheet with three quotes from Malala. Students will read the quote and write about what it means. (grades 4/5)
- Reading Logs: these come in 3 different levels/versions.
- Culture and Diversity mini book or reader. Audio is included.
- Malala Yousafzai biography and comprehension questions.
Free Resource Library Activities
In the free resource library are a couple different activities that go along with all of these ideas. Everything in the resource library is free for newsletter subscribers. If you are not a member, you can sign up by completing the form at the bottom of the page or clicking on the link in the menu.
If you’re looking for some multicultural and diverse to read with your students read these two blog posts.