Middle grade is the age when kids start being more aware of different races, colors, ethnicity. This is also the age when bullying becomes more prominent at the school level. Children of different cultures are aware of their difference with others more and more.
A perfect time to remind our children that underneath all the diversity and differences, we are all the same. The below list covers a good range of books for kids to learn about America’s multicultural history, understand the struggle for basic rights, education, struggle for freedom from enslavement.
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Multicultural Books For Middle School (Grades 6-8)
Read the story of a young half-Asian girl, Hanna. She relocated from China to America in 1880 with her father. Her plan includes getting an education, becoming a dressmaker in her father’s shop, and making at least one friend in a new place. The story showcases the prejudices, and discrimination Hanna faces for being Asian.
George Washington Carver for Kids
George Washington Carver was born into slavery during the Civil War. Through sheer will and hard work, he pursued education and became the first black graduate from Iowa Agricultural College. A scientist, educator, artist, inventor, and humanitarian – his contribution to the field of agriculture is well known. George worked with the poor and uplifted them through knowledge of soil and corps. Read the inspiring story of this remarkable American. The book also has 21 hands-on activities for kids.
Stand Up, Yumi Chung!
Meet Yumi Chung – a Korean girl, who in her spare time helps her family in their barbecue restaurant. She gets bullied at school and aspires to be a comedian. When an opportunity comes to join a comedy camp, Yumi jumps in. From then on, it is a series of mistaken identities and things falling apart. The story is relatable to many Asian kids – trying to fit in, finding one’s place, family aspirations- among others.
A Place at the Table
Read the story of friendship, food, fun featuring two sixth-graders from diverse cultural backgrounds. Elizabeth, a white Jewish girl, is taking a cooking class conducted by Pakistani American Sara’s mother. Through one cross-cultural dish at a time, the girls start forging a bond. Read on to see how they learn to trust each other and participate in the local food show.
Mia Tang’s family moved from China to America. They live in a motel and 10-year-old Mia manages the front desk. Her parents work in the motel and help other undocumented countrymen. Mia hides her life from her school friends. She works hard and dreams of being a writer one day. The story highlights the hard life immigrants face. It is a heartwarming and easy read. Check out the other two books from the series.
My Diary From Here to There
Read the journey of Amada, as she immigrates from Mexico to America with her family. She is skeptical about adjusting to a new place, new culture, learning a new language, leaving her friends behind. But with the support of her family and belief, she makes the journey to a new land. It is a humorous and insightful autobiography by the author Amada Irma Perez. The beautiful artwork captures the journey well.
Separate Is Never Equal
This book is based on the real story of the Mendez family against the education system of California. After relocating to Westminster, California, young Sylvia Mendez and her brother were turned away from their neighborhood school and were told to enroll in the school for Mexican children instead. But Sylvia was American and spoke perfect English. Thus the fight of the Mendez family began for equal education, which led to an end to segregated schooling in California in early 1940. It is a great book for middle schoolers to understand the multicultural history of USA, and fight for social justice.
Chocolate Milk, Por Favor
A new kid Gabe joins the school, but he does not speak much English. While his teachers and other classmates try to help and make him feel welcome, Johnny does not like Gabe. Johnny is prejudiced and tries to make things difficult for Gabe. However, in the end, their shared love for soccer brings them together. Johnny learns to be more empathetic about Gabe’s situation. This book is highly recommended for kids to be empathetic and helpful in a similar situation.
All Different and Beautiful
This a charming book is about a new boy Orion. Even though new to America, he is extremely confident and tries to help others in need always. This lovely book teaches about friendship, even when we all look different. Beautiful illustrations perfectly complement this heart-touching story.
What Is the Civil Rights Movement?
Slavery in America ended in the 1860s. However African American’s were still socially segregated – they could not go to the same restaurant, same school, hotels. However, starting in the 1950s, they refused to remain second-class citizens anymore and started fights for their civil rights. This book teaches kids about this fight through real stories and histories of the people who spearheaded the movement. Beautiful Black and White illustrations along with simple language, make this book an ideal choice to learn about the multicultural history and diversity of America.
Two Countries One Me
This book is created for children to embrace their multi-ethnic backgrounds. Through the story of KJ, who is from both Ghana and Nigeria, this book teaches valuable lessons about one’s ethnic heritage through pictures and fun facts. A delightful story about self-identity and acceptance. It is the need of the hour for children to take pride in the origin and heritage. Written for age 11-13 years, this book sends a positive message about the beauty of diversity.
Perfect, Just Like You!
This charming children’s book teaches one to be confident of themselves and respect and celebrate the diversity of others. It is a positive and fun book. With each unique character in the book, it emphasizes the message that we may look and do things differently, however in the end we are all same. The colorful arts are a treat to the eye.
Journey of the Freckled Indian
This story highlights the adversity multi-racial children face in school. Any display of their ethnicity many a time draws criticism and ridicule from their peers. It is the story of a girl Freckle, and how she is bullied at school for her mixed race. However, a journey to her native land and more understanding about her culture makes her a more confident girl. This beautifully illustrated book is recommended for kids to understand and be mindful of one’s heritage.
Almost to Freedom
This is the story to teach our children about the horror an enslaved girl and her family go through. Written from Sally, the young girl Linda’s doll view, it is the courageous tale of how a family escapes enslavement through the darkness of night, being boated away across a river and underground railway. The heart-wrenching storybook is suitable for grades 6 and above.
I Love Being Me!
This book is part of the popular multicultural series – Curly Crew. In a silly and humorous way, the Curly Crew narrates and admires different parts of their body and embraces the uniqueness. Unique storyline and happy illustrations keep readers engaged and entertained. A perfect book to instills self-confidence in children of about each and every body type.
Lori Marie Carlson, Oscar Hijuelos
It is a collection of bilingual poems narrating the experiences of Latinas growing up in America. It is the celebration of the mixture of double lives, encompassing two cultures and languages. The poems are about daily events, parties, sad memories, families. A good and fascinating read for understanding the mixed culture, from teenagers’ point of view.