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7 stories to help your child learn about the world

“It is not enough to simply teach children to read. We have to give them something worth reading. Something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own.”

Katherine Paterson, Children’s Author

The stories we tell our children play an important role in shaping who they become. You can help your child become more aware of the diversity around them by introducing them to characters and cultures from stories told around the world.

The countries where ChildFund works are filled with stories, myths, legends and characters that have been passed down through generations. From traditional myths to allegories that will help your child understand the issues facing children around the world, we have selected these seven stories to give you a starting point for your child’s international bookcase.

1. Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Stories (Vietnam)


The Children’s Favorite Stories was created to share folktales and legends from Vietnam. In this collection of 15 traditional tales, integrity, hard work and a kind heart triumph over deception, laziness, and greed. Gods, peasants, kings and fools spring to life in legends of bravery and beauty, and fables about nature.

Storyteller Tran Thi Minh Phuoc recounts Vietnamese folktales such as:

  • The Story of Tam and Cam (the Vietnamese version of Cinderella)
  • The Jade Rabbit
  • The Legend of the Mai Flower

With illustrations by veteran artists Nguyen Thi Hop and Nguyen Dong, children and adults alike enjoy Tran’s English retellings.

Recommended reading age: children age 5-14 years


2. I See the Sun in Myanmar/Burma (Myanmar)


Each book in the I See the Sun series portrays, through a child’s eyes, a day from dawn to dusk. The stories are simple yet reflect both the diversity and similarity of children’s experiences throughout the world.

In I See the Sun in Myanmar/Burma lush illustrations and a bilingual story in English and Burmese offer Aye Aye’s view of her country, which until recently has been something of a mystery to most of the rest of the world.

Aye Aye’s father is a fisherman on the river and her mother is a nurse in a nearby hospital. The story also provides an elementary introduction to Buddhist culture and the tradition of metta, a practice of saying phrases of loving-kindness.

Recommended reading age: children age 6-7 years


3. Judge Rabbit and the Tree Spirit (Cambodia)


Storytelling has always been an important part of Khmer culture and many of the folktales in Cambodian history revolve around the loveable and compassionate Judge Rabbit. Judge Rabbit’s stories are full of important lessons that apply to all children.

In Judge Rabbit and the Tree Spirit a mischievous tree spirit becomes jealous of a happy young couple and poses as the husband after he is sent to defend his country. When the husband returns from war and his wife is confused about his identity the couple turns to crafty Judge Rabbit to uncover the mystery.

Recommended reading age: children age 6-7 years


4. Lila and the Secret of Rain (Kenya)


Published almost 11 years ago Lila and the Secret of Rain remains a topical, educational and uplifting story about drought in East Africa. Lila’s village in Kenya is experiencing a terrible drought. When Lila’s grandfather tells her the secret of rain, she sets off on her own to save her village.

How Lila saves the village by telling the sky the saddest thing she knows is told in David Conway’s elegant and spare prose style, which is complemented by Jude Daly’s beautiful and poignant illustrations.

Recommended reading age: children age 5-8 years


5. The Rainbow Serpent (Australia)


In Indigenous Australian culture, dreamtime stories tell how the Rainbow Serpent came from beneath the ground and created huge ridges, mountains and gorges as it pushed upward. Dick Roughsey’s retelling of The Rainbow Serpent has been a fixture in Australian houses, schools and libraries since it was published more than 40 years ago.

Recommended reading age: children age 8-10 years


6. Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale (Mexico)


In this allegorical tale, a young rabbit named Pancho eagerly awaits the return of his father, who travelled north two years ago to work in the big carrot and lettuce fields. When his father does not return, Pancho sets out to find him. Along the way he meets a cunning coyote, who offers to help but does not have Pancho’s best interests at heart.

Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale is a child-friendy introduction to the hardship and struggles faced by thousands of families who seek to make better lives for themselves and their children by illegally crossing the border to the United States.

Recommended reading age: children age 5-9 years


7. Tiger on a Tree (India)

Dubbed ‘India’s Dr. Seuss’, Anushka Ravishankar is one of India’s most celebrated children’s authors, and her witty and jubilant tales are internationally acclaimed and widely translated. Tiger on a Tree is tale of a wild tiger cub who wanders into an Indian village, and the reactions he encounters from the stunned village inhabitants. The art, verse and typography run and bounce off the page, drawing both the curious child and the quizzical adult into the lively world of the book.

Recommended reading age: children age 3-6 years


Powerful stories that teach children important lessons


Now you’re all set to introduce your children to stories that will teach them about diversity and difference. Encouraging children to embrace other cultures at a young age is so important because it will help them grow into accepting and open-minded adults. We hope there’s a story on our list that interests you.

Many of our child sponsors have found sponsorship to be a great way to teach their own children about other cultures. Learn more about our child sponsorship program here, and how you and your child can make a big impact on the life of another young person.

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