Without further ado, here they are:
One of the best parts about being a Children’s Librarian is all the singing we get to do! But singing certainly shouldn’t end at storytime. This list features 10 of our favorite multicultural picture books you can use to encourage singing anytime.
Singing, one of the five early literacy skills that help children get ready to read, has so many benefits. Singing is important because:
- It slows down language, allowing children to hear the different sounds in words and the syllables that make up each word.
- Songs often include repeated phrases and repetition is essential for early learning.
- Singing is a great opportunity to bond with your child, and when a child feels safe and loved he or she is more receptive to learning
- Nursery rhymes and fingerplays often contain new vocabulary children otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to.
We are always on the lookout for new books that have a great beat or that can be put to a tune. Our Singable Books for Storytime Pinterest board contains the following 10 suggestions, plus many more.
1. Hush, Little Baby adapted and illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Pinkney transforms this traditional Southern Appalachian lullaby by giving us a peek into a day-in-the-life of an African American family set during the early 1900s. As a tearful baby watches her mother depart for the day, it is up to her father and big brother to cheer her up. The illustrations are bright and vivid and offer a much-needed portrait of African American men as caring, nurturing, and loving. After reading this book, try learning a new soothing song, such as Sleep, Sleep Little One, a simple lullaby that can be translated into any language.
2. Punk Farm by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Krosoczka, author of the Lunch Lady series, brings us this comical book promoting musical diversity. While Farmer Joe is asleep, a group of animals sporting chain necklaces put on a concert featuring four new verses to “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” In the midst of all the booming and crashing, kids learn musical vocabulary such as amp, keyboard, and bass. Want more farm animals songs? Try this puppet laden hello song!
3. Dragon Dancing by Carole Lexa Schaefer
Though this book isn’t set to a particular tune, it has such a lovely rhythm and colorful array of phrases that we had to include it. Join a group of kids as they assemble a crafty dragon that gets their imaginations spinning. The sing-song quality of this book is highlighted by phrases such as “whish-shoosh” and “mish-mooshing.” Best of all, it will surely inspire some dancing on the reader’s end. Looking for more imaginative play songs? Try our storytime favorite, Zoom, Zoom, Zoom.
4. This Little Light of Mine illustrated by E.B. Lewis*
This traditional African American spiritual is brought to life by Lewis’s full-page watercolor illustrations featuring a young African American boy sharing his “light” with his community. Despite the religious undertones of this song, Lewis conveys the simple message of being yourself and sharing your happiness with others. The book ends with the musical score and four printed verses. Extend this book by learning the sign language version as we demonstrate below.
5. Bee-bim Bop by Linda Sue Park
Newbery award-winning author Linda Sue Park wrote this rhyming chant about one of the staple Korean dishes. With a catchy and bouncy refrain that is easy to sing, kids will love to join in as the little girl in the book helps her mother prepare the meal. This book is a great way to model how to incorporate singing into daily activities, and a recipe for Bee Bim Bop is included at the end. We’ve filmed many songs about food and highly recommend trying Mix a Pancake and Bananas Unite for some additional singing fun!
6. There Was a Tree illustrated by Rachel Isadora
This vibrant reimagining of a traditional song is brought to life by Isadora’s distinct cut-paper illustrations and African setting. The pages feature a range of beautiful animals surrounding an umbrella acacia tree. The song is broken into singable chunks with small pictographs standing in for repeated concepts such as hole, tree, and branch. This book is a perfect example of how songs help build memory and narrative skills by incorporating repetition. For another great rhyme that builds and builds try The Key to the City.
7. One Love by Cedella Marley and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Using words from her father’s song One Love Cedella Marley has created a beautifully singable book. The story features a little girl who with the help of her friends and family plants a community garden. Full of diverse families, this would make for a great springtime read. To extend the messages of this book we like to sing I Have a Little Heart, Five Little Hearts, or any of the songs on our Emotions and Feelings Storytime Playlist.
8. Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
This book positively comes to life through Wheeler’s musical language and the use of several refrains. Jazz Baby is a simple story about a baby who is serenaded by his extended African American family, singing low, singing high, toot-tooting, and scat singing. Even the itty-bitty-baby plays a part in this book which is guaranteed to have the whole family singing and tapping along. Keep the cool jazz vibes going with the video below!
9. One is a Drummer by Roseanne Thong, illustrated by Grace Lin
On the surface, One is a Drummer is a colorful counting book. A deeper reading however reveals its rich language and exploration of Chinese culture. The verses on each page, which can be sung to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” count aspects of the main character’s daily life like the seasons, dim sum carts, and mahjong players. She is joined in her counting by a truly multicultural group of friends and family. To encourage kids to count throughout the day we love this counting rhyme below.
10. Hush! A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho and illustrated by Holly Meade
In this beautiful bedtime read a Thai mother discovers the creatures which threaten to disturb her baby’s sleep and asks them through the rich rhyming verse to hush. Set in a village in Northern Thailand Meade’s authentic illustrations allow children to explore bedtime in another culture, as well as meet a new cast of animal characters. After reading this book try out an animal song or play the sleeping bunnies game with water buffalos or lizards!
Lindsey Krabbenhoft and Dana Horrocks, two Children’s Librarians from Vancouver, B.C., are the gals behind the storytime YouTube channel Jbrary. Not only do they love to sing, they also have a passion for children’s literature and youth programming. They tweet at @lmkrabbenhoft and @danachorrocks respectively and write weekly blog posts at jbrary.com. They love connecting with other people (librarians or not!) who share an interest in working with youth of all ages.
p.s. I have one more by Marc Brown of the popular Arthur series
Marc Brown’s Playtime Rhymes: A Treasury for Families to Learn and Play Together by Marc Brown
Twenty favorite childhood rhymes are lovingly illustrated by popular children’s book author and illustrator Marc Brown of the Arthur series. You can use these rhymes to sing along to as well as for finger movements.
p.s. Related posts:
African-American Female Musicians Picture Books
Celebrating Musicians in Picture Books
Mondrian Music and Art Project for Kids
Gift Guide: Musical Toys for Kids
Be Featured in our Multicultural Children’s Book Day Music Video!
Multicultural Children’s Book Day Music Video!
Back to School, Back to Music with #MusicArtsBTS
Music App for Kids on Sounds of the Orchestra
How To: Select a Music Teacher
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Follow PragmaticMom’s board Multicultural Books for Kids on Pinterest.
Follow PragmaticMom’s board Best Books for Kids on Pinterest.
BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.
21 thoughts on “10 Multicultural Picture Books to Sing from Jbrary”
Another very enjoyable post! Keep them coming, I love reading your write ups!
Thank you The Funster,
But I need to give credit to Jbrary for this great post! They are my guest authors today and I’m sure they appreciate your feedback!
Loved the video in the 2. Punk Farm and the 8. Jazz Baby. Great job Lindsey and Dana.
They have such a wonderful post. Thank you again Lindsey and Dana from Jbrary! Please check out their wonderful blog!!!
Mia, I love it when songs are paired with children’s books. There is nothing more disturbing to me than to hear young children singing pop music. I want them to sing songs appropriate for their age. Are you familiar with Iza Trapini’s book’s: “The Bear Went Over the Mountain,” “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “How Much is that Doggie in the Window,” etc. All are written and illustrated around a songs appropriate for children.
Thank you so much for adding to the list Patricia!! You make me smile when you say there is nothing more disturbing than hearing young kids singing to pop music. I remember when I heard my god son at age 3 singing Britney Spears songs. It was a little strange! Children’s nursery rhymes are much more innocent!
Thanks for sharing this and the info about all of these great books!
I’m passing it on to my friend whose 2 yr old loved to sing–I know it will be a big hit!
Thanks for much for sharing this great post from Jbrary!! I hope your friend’s 2-year-old enjoys the books and videos!!
Great post. Our little man is just getting to the point where he’s instigating songs so there’s plenty of useful material here.
I’m so glad!! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’ll be sure to share them with Jbrary who wrote this great post!
What a great list, Mia! I love Thai Lullaby! These would all be great for our library storytime!
We both love multicultural children’s books! I have a feeling that if we ever were lucky enough to meet in person, we’d have a LOT to talk about!! I hope to meet you one day IRL!
This is a fantastic post. When you are able to use all senses, the child understands the book better and has more fun!
Thank so much for sharing!
What a great point! Using all five senses is a fun way to get into a book!
Excellent picks! A few of these are new to me; I’ll have to look for copies!
I think your kids will love these! I know they are very musical!
I love to sing books to my youngest! Our favorite is Bugtown Boogie! What a great post filled with inspiring book ideas. Thanks for sharing this at the After School Linky party!
Hi Deceptively Educational,
Thanks so much for your great book recommendation and for hosting After School Linky Party!!!
These books are all new to me. I plan to see how many I can find. Thanks for these suggestions.
Thank you Books4Learning. I hope you enjoy them too!
Thanks so much Books4Learning! Hope you enjoy them!