Interfaith Inspiration

10 Children’s Books that Celebrate Interfaith Cooperation 

By Suraj Arshanapally and Anu Gorukanti
Two kids sitting in the library reading book together. (PixelCatchers/Getty Images)

Two kids sitting in the library reading book together. (PixelCatchers/Getty Images)

In honor of Children’s Book Week (May 6-12, 2024), we are celebrating children’s books that promote the values of interfaith cooperation and shape young minds toward fostering a more inclusive and understanding society.  

While numerous books teach children about specific religions, our focus is on those that prioritize the values of interfaith cooperation and intercultural understanding, thus promoting empathy, respect, and curiosity toward individuals with diverse worldviews. By exposing children to these values, they learn to celebrate differences, build bridges of understanding, and embrace our shared humanity. 

© Clarion Books

It’s Ramadan, Curious George

by H. A. Rey and Hena Khan 

It’s Ramadan! George helps Kareem with his first fast and joins him during the celebration. They make gift baskets for people who are in need and look at the crescent moon together. Toward the end of Ramadan, George joins in the Eid festival. This children’s book portrays interfaith friendships and highlights the beauty of learning about different religious traditions. George and Kareem show us that regardless of our worldviews or previous experiences, we can come together in celebration.  

© Kar-Ben Pub

Hanukkah Moon

By Deborah de Costa 

When Isobel visits Aunt Luisa’s for Hanukkah, she is not sure what’s in store. Aunt Luisa, who has recently arrived from Mexico, introduces Isobel to the Hanukkah Moon tradition. Through many celebrations such as breaking open a dreidel piñata and welcoming the luna nueva (new moon), Isobel’s expectations are surpassed by far. This unique tale celebrates intercultural cooperation, specifically among the Latin-Jewish community. Isobel and Aunt Luisa’s story emphasizes the beauty of sharing and embracing diverse ways to celebrate religious traditions. 

© Random House Books for Young Readers

Kalamata’s Kitchen: Taste Buds in Harmony

By Sarah Thomas 

 

Kalamata and her friends are preparing for a talent show but can’t seem to agree on a routine. Transported to her friend Kyo’s family’s Malaysian coffee shop, they learn how diverse ingredients come together to create delicious dishes. Returning with a newfound understanding of diversity and unity, they collaborate to blend their ideas into a standout dance routine. Kalamata’s story promotes the values of interfaith and intercultural cooperation by showcasing how people with diverse worldviews can work together, combining their strengths and perspectives to achieve success and harmony.  

© Taylor Trade Publishing

You Be You

By Linda Kranz 

When Adri, a little fish, ventures into the ocean, he is amazed by the vibrant diversity around him. He meets fish of all shapes, sizes, and colors – some large, some small, some smooth, and some spiny. Immersed in this colorful world, Adri’s story promotes interfaith understanding by highlighting the beauty of diversity that exists in the world. Despite their differences, Adri is able to coexist harmoniously in their shared environment.  

© Andersen Press

Elmer and Rose 

By David McKee 

When Grandpa Eldo enlists Elmer and his cousin Wilbur to help a young, pink elephant named Rose in finding her herd, they are surprised by her unique color! As they accompany Rose on her journey, Elmer and Wilbur learn about the importance of acceptance and inclusion. This children’s book promotes the values of interfaith and intercultural cooperation by embracing differences and fostering a sense of belonging. The story of Elmer and Rose illustrates how people (or elephants) from diverse backgrounds can come together to support and uplift one another despite their unique characteristics or worldviews.  

© Shanté Keys and the New Year’s Peas

Shanté Keys and the New Year’s Peas

By Gail Piernas-Davenport 

It’s New Year’s Eve and Shanté Key is visiting her grandmother’s house. For good luck, her family eats black-eyed peas or cowpeas every New Year’s Eve. Unfortunately, Grandma doesn’t have any black-eyed peas to cook, and Shanté Keys is on a mission to help her find some. Shanté Keys visits her neighbors to ask for help. She meets Senor Ortiz who shares about his Mexican tradition of eating grapes on New Year’s Eve and her Indian neighbor Hari who shares about his family’s Diwali traditions. After going throughout the neighborhood, Shanté Key’s aunt has some black-eyed peas to borrow and joins the family in preparing for the New Year’s feast. In celebration of their diverse traditions, all of Shanté Key’s neighbors join them for dinner to celebrate the New Year’s, bringing the food and traditions of their new year celebrations.

© Scholastic Press

Binny’s Diwali

By Thrity Umrigar  

Binny’s teacher Mr. Boomer asked her to talk about her favorite holiday. Today, she is going to share about Diwali, the festival of lights. She puts on her new Indian outfit as she gets ready for school and eats delicious Indian sweets for breakfast with her family. When she gets to school, suddenly Binny feels too shy to talk about Diwali. After some encouragement from her teacher Mr. Boomer, Binny teaches her class about the meaning of Diwali, the celebration of victory of goodness and light, and shares about the lighting of lamps or diyas. She shares about the gorgeous lights and fireworks that light up the sky and offers her classmates delicious Indian treats. As a community, they celebrate Diwali together, highlighting the power of religious literacy for children.  

© Shade 7 Publishing Limited

Hats of Faith

By Medeia Cohan  

People of all religious and cultural traditions wear head coverings or hats as a way to express their faith. In this illustrated children’s book, we learn about different hats worn in various faith traditions from Sikh turbans to the Tichel worn by Orthodox Jewish women to the Topi worn by many South Asian Muslim men. This book is a great introduction to building religious literacy about the different ways people practice and express their faith around the world.  

© Random House Studio

Salat in Secret

By Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow  

Muhummad is seven years old and his dad lets him know he is old enough to take part in Salat (a form of prayer that Muslims perform five times a day). When Muhummad goes to school, he is too shy to ask his teacher for a place to pray and doesn’t want his classmates to see him praying. He secretly prays quickly in the coat closet because he doesn’t want people to stare. When he goes home with his dad on his ice cream truck, his dad stops to pray on the sidewalk. A stranger thinks his prayer practice is strange and calls the police. His dad continues to pray anyway and Muhummad stands up to the policemen – telling him that “they are just ice cream men praying.” The police eventually leave and Muhummad and his dad continue their prayers together. The next day, Muhummad is proud to share with his teacher that he is Muslim and needs a dedicated space to pray. This book is a great introduction to the practices of the Islamic faith and can teach children how to advocate for faith practices that are important to them.  

© Kids Can Press

Up The Creek

By Nicholas Oldland  

Bear, Moose and Beaver are good friends, but they often disagree on how to do things. On their canoe trip, this trio encounters many obstacles and often find themselves in arguments. After accidentally flipping over their canoe and getting thrown into a waterfall, Bear, Moose and Beaver recognize the only way they can safely get home is by working together. This book highlights the interfaith values of listening, teamwork and cooperation between animals (or people!) of different backgrounds and traditions. 

Suraj Arshanapally, MPH, is an Indian American storyteller and public health advocate. He started The Multicultural Man to celebrate cultural diversity and healthy masculinity through storytelling. He is also the Managing Editor for the CDC Yellow Book, an international travel medicine publication at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suraj received his MPH in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Yale University. He believes multiculturalism and interfaith cooperation are crucial to building a healthy and peaceful society.   

  

Suraj Arshanapally wrote this article in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, or the United States government.    

 

Anu Gorukanti, MD, is a public health practitioner and pediatric hospitalist. She is also the co-founder of  Introspective Spaces, a social venture committed to building reflective space and community for women in healthcare. She was a member of the Sacred Journeys and Witness fellowships. She cares deeply about the well-being of her colleagues in healthcare and is passionate about healthcare reform to create equitable and compassionate care for patients and communities. In her free time, she loves to photograph landscapes, learn to dance, and spend time with her wonderful husband, friends, and family.