This Thursday your children may be heading off to school wearing something orange to celebrate Harmony Day. And although it may seem like a relatively new event, this year marks it’s 20thanniversary.
Since 1999, more than 77,000 Harmony Week events have been held across Australia. It’s a time to celebrate Australian multiculturalism in our community and refocus on inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all Australians, regardless of cultural or linguistic background.
As this is a special year, the event has been held over the entire week 17 – 23 March and renamed Harmony Week to recognise diversity and inclusion activities that take place between those dates. Harmony Week includes 21 March, which is the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Many schools celebrate the 21 March with cultural events, special food and wearing something orange (the official Harmony Day colour) but there are many ways to get involved. You can visit the ‘Get Involved’ page on the Harmony Week website for ideas.
Of course, we believe that one of the best ways to share these important messages with young children is through story-telling, so we’ve put together a list of wonderful books, all absolute stand-outs that celebrate diversity and multiculturalism:
I’m Australian Too by Mem Fox | Illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh
Many people from many places have come across the seas to make Australia their home. How Australian is that? From countries near and far, many have made their home in Australia, sharing it with the original inhabitants, and living in peace beneath the Southern Star. Mem Fox celebrates Australia’s incredible multicultural heritage in this beautiful book illustrated by Ronojoy Ghosh.
Hello by Tony Flowers
Meet 12 Australian friends who can speak different languages. They tell us how to count from 1 to 10, say hello and goodbye and lots of other words in their languages about play, food, hobbies and clothes. Once we’ve said hello, we can watch Emiko playing the Japanese drum and Pilinh performing an Aboriginal dance. We can see how to make gnocchi with Sophia and flat bread with Amal. This book is an introduction to 12 languages spoken most frequently in Australian homes, plus three Indigenous languages. Illustrated in a cartoon style, the pictures add humour and fun to language learning.
Wide Big World by Maxine Beneba Clarke | Illustrated by Isobel Knowles
Wide Big World examines and then celebrates difference in all its many and varied forms. Throughout the pages of this vibrant picture book, school friends, Izzy and Belle take a wondrous journey together, discovering all the differences that surround them. People are different. Some are hairy, tall or cute, the sun is red-hot-brilliant, and the rain is cool and clean, and so it continues. Their teacher Mr Jay helps them along the way by pointing out that nature is ‘smart and wonderfully wild’ in the way she has created diversity. The message is clear, let’s celebrate all our differences and enjoy them.
The Hello Atlas by Ben Handicott | Illustrated by Kenard Pak
Look into the lives of children all over the world and listen to 133 different languages. Travel through each continent and read simple greetings in different languages – some of which you might have heard of, like French, Chinese and Arabic, and some that you might not have! If you want to hear what they sound like, use the QR code to access hundreds of authentic recordings. Fully illustrated scenes throughout show how children share the same everyday activities, whether they live in big cities or small, remote villages – and they all have one thing in common: they want to say hello to you! With foreword by ethnobotanist and Explorer, Professor Wade Davis.
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold | Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufmann
Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcome. A school where children in patkas, hijabs, baseball caps and yarmulkes play side by side. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions. A school where diversity is a strength.Warm and inspiring, All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, and they are welcome in their school. Engaging lyrical text and bright, accessible illustrations make this book a must for every child’s bookshelf, classroom and library.
You Must be Layla by Yassmin Abel-Magied
A heart-warming story that will give young readers insight into the lives of migrants to Australia and the struggles with racism and identity that they grapple with. It also explores the pressure that students can be under from their parents to perform at school and how this can play out in very detrimental ways. Layla is a wonderfully warm and vibrant character who will stay with you long after you have finished reading her story. A perfect book to get young readers thinking more about issues in the playground and to the bigger world beyond it.