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More Multicultural Than I Look

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My life is busy and FULL!
My many hats include children’s book author & publisher, reading & play advocate, reading activist who is committed to diversity in children’s books. I am also co-founder of a very important event call Multicultural Children’s Book Day (1/27/2015) which is now approaching it’s second year. Co-founder Mia Wenjen of Pragmatic Mom is raising children in a 1/4 Japanese-American, 1/4 Chinese-American and 1/2 Korean American home. At first glance, my multicultural roots are not obvious, but I can assure you they are there.
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On any given day, you may hear as many as six different languages spoken in my home.
My life and household has been diverse and multicultural for as long as I can remember. As the daughter of parents who emigrated from Sweden, I have been immersed in Nordic culture since childhood. As a child I attended German/English schools and as an adult I continued learning even more languages for a grand total of six (English, Swedish, French, Arabic, German, Japanese, plus working knowledge in a few others.)
I am also a wife to a Lebanese/Muslim man and am raising Lebanese-American children post 9/11. I may look like an All-American girl, but my multicultural roots run deep and I have been committed to raising my children as global citizens since the day they were born.  As a family we speak Arabic, French, and English in our home and travel often to give our children exposure to people and various cultures on the globe.
Literacy has played a huge roll in my family. We are a family of avid book readers, however it has been very difficult to find books that have characters who are like my children, global citizens with a diverse and varied background.
Other tidbits of information about my life includes the fact that I am passionate about making kid’s books come alive on my website Jump into a Book where we creating moments for adults and children to share together while bringing the books they’re reading to life. I am the author of The Fox Diaries: The Year the Foxes Came to our Garden, The Ultimate Guide To Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and most recently A Year in The Secret Garden. In fact, the hard cover of this book was just delivered this week and to say I am giddy with glee is an understatement! You can view more details about my latest book here and I’d live if you connected with me!
A Year in the Secret garden

7 thoughts on “More Multicultural Than I Look

  1. Valarie, thanks so much for your post. This is an issue close to my heart. I recently attended the SCBWI conference in L.A. as well at KidLit blogging conference where the main topic was diversity in children’s books. My multicultural roots are also not obvious – my husband is Armenian, two of my 4 children are S. Korean and through marriage our immediate and extended family is a hodgepodge of ethnicities. In addition, we have continued to host foreign exchange students and through my work with an international children’s welfare agency we have traveled extensively. Our family represents the changing face of America. Children need diverse books. My kids were always excited when they found books that reflected our experience of a multi-cultural family.
    I appreciate your blog – keep up the good work but don’t wear yourself out!

  2. Sorry to be so wordy today. Diversity needs to be about much more than racial identity. My son has Tourette’s Syndrome and Asperger’s. One of my daughter’s has a (repaired) cleft palate. My niece has dyslexia and my nephew is a cancer survivor. These type of issues also need to be included in kid’s books.

    1. I completely agree Claire. Diversity is a broad and wide topic that needs to be reflected in our children’s books. I appreciate your thoughts so much and am so thankful you shared them here.

  3. I am so impressed that you speak more than 6 languages!!! And I’m so excited to be working on our 2nd Multicultural Children’s Book Day with you again!!!

  4. A big kudos to you (and Mia) for your efforts to help make more diverse books available to children. I’m always fascinated by everyone around us. You can never “judge a book by its cover” since there are so many stories, ethnicities, and experiences within each of us. Cheers to you!

    1. It’s a great joy and honor to do this Aimee. Thanks for being right there with us.

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