8 Books That Will Introduce Your Kid To Foreign Languages And Cultures

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Your kid will spend their whole life in a globally connected world. In the future, that means having immediate and constant access to people, cultures, goods, and ideas from all corners of the Earth. In the much nearer term, that means meeting another kid in the sandbox who looks and sounds nothing like them. Your kid’s face in that moment will be memorable, but not as priceless as the the other kid’s (and their parents’) reaction when yours replies in their native tongue. Make sure you get to enjoy that moment by reading them these 8 books that introduce kids to foreign languages like Spanish, French, Mandarin, and Farsi.


Niño Wrestles The Worldfatherly_childrens_books_bilingual_foreign_language_culture_nino_wrestles_the_world_yuyi_moralesUnderwear-clad luchador Niño imagines himself dismantling Mexican mythological villains with hilarious signature moves, like finishing the Guanajuato Mummy with a “Tickle Tackle.” He only flinches at the dirty diapers and piercing wails of “Las Hermanitas,” aka his baby sisters. Each bout is introduced with a vintage poster and fighter profiles explaining Mexican folk references and Spanish pronunciations, then unfolds in play-by-play. It’s like watching WWE, except replace “Bah gawd!” with “¡Dios mio!”
Niño Wrestles The World by Yuyi Morales ($14)
Ages: 4-8

The Pet Dragonfatherly_childrens_books_bilingual_foreign_language_culture_the_pet_dragon_christoph_niemannOne girl’s quest across vast, treacherous lands to take back her dragon … with fire and blood. No? No fire and blood? Sorry, should have been more specific. Lin journeys across China after her dragon, teaching your kid Chinese through pictographs integrated into story elements (the character for “mountain” forms a mountain, for example). Forcing your kid to learn in order to finish a book — tiāncái! Genius!
The Pet Dragon by Christoph Niemann ($14)
Ages: 4-8

Everybody Bonjoursfatherly_childrens_books_bilingual_foreign_language_culture_everybody_bonjoursYour kid will learn a bunch of French words and Parisian landmarks from Monsieur LeMousie’s sightseeing tour with a girl dressed like a French flag … but mostly bonjour! Because everyone in France just says that all the time, apparently. Whether or not this represents an accurate depiction of French life, you already know that raising your kid like a Frenchman has documented benefits. Where better to start than, “Hello?”
Everybody Bonjours by Leslie Kimmelman and Sarah McMenemy ($14)
Ages: 3-8

Little Kunoichi, The Ninja Girlfatherly_childrens_books_bilingual_foreign_language_culture_little_kunoichi_the_ninja_girlWhile the endpapers contain extensive definitions of Japanese language and cultural elements, here are a few key Japanese lessons you and your kid can expect to learn right up front: 1) “Kunoichi” means “Ninja girl.” 2) “Shugyo” means “Training like crazy.” 3) Teaching your little kunoichi to practice shugyo is way more badass for everyone involved than telling your child, “Practice makes perfect.”
Little Kunoichi, The Ninja Girl by Sanae Ishida ($13)
Ages: 3-7

Nabeel’s New Pantsfatherly_childrens_books_bilingual_foreign_language_culture_nabeels_new_pantsA kindergartener who’s culturally versed in conversational Arabic terms and the traditional Muslim celebration of Eid, the culmination of Ramadan, is definitely advanced. Not quite as advanced as one who knows to put on pants that fit, but pretty advanced. This book teaches them both, so you don’t have to choose, or worse, let them. Because you know they’re not choosing pants.
Nabeel’s New Pants by Fawzia Gilani-Williams and Proiti Roy ($3)
Ages: 3-8

Bee-bim Bopfatherly_childrens_books_bilingual_foreign_language_culture_bee_bim_bopTraditional Korean mixed rice might not be staple around your house, but the joy of helping mom and dad in the kitchen is universal, and that tradition is this book’s central theme. Besides a few food names, there’s not as much language learning here as in some of the other titles on this list. However, the bit of Korean that is present is exceedingly fun to say, not to mention delicious.
Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park and Ho Baek Lee ($13)
Ages: 4-8

I See The Sun In Afghanistanfatherly_childrens_books_bilingual_foreign_language_culture_i_see_the_sun_in_afghanistanThis installment of the I See The Sun In series is noteworthy in light of your kid’s aforementioned global citizenship. Though war exists in the backdrop, it’s far from Habiba as she introduces her family and daily activities in her native tongue. The book is written in both English and Dari (Afghan Farsi) so kids can see the beautiful script while learning the words, and avoid having to learn about Afghanistan from misremembering newsmen.
I See The Sun In Afghanistan by Dedie King, Judith Inglese, and Mohd Vahidi ($13)
Ages: 5-8

Wild Berriesfatherly_childrens_books_bilingual_foreign_language_culture_wild_berriesA small child goes blueberry picking with his grandmother. Yup, that’s it. But then, life’s most precious moments are the simplest ones, shared with those you love. And there’s plenty to see in the ol’ blueberry clearing, all of which Grandma describes with her words paired with their Cree equivalents. Specifically the dialect called Swampy Cree, which is both a lesson in Native American culture and the new frontrunner for your next child’s name.
Wild Berries by Julie Flett and Earl N. Cook ($14)
Ages: 4-7

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