I don't know when it started but I've always been fascinated with maps, globes and learning about places around the world.
I love to see how people across the globe eat, live and spend their day. These everyday activities are a fun way to expose kids to cultures and traditions outside of their own.
But alas, globe-trotting just doesn't come that easy -- even for a traveling family like ours. It's expensive and takes quite a bit of time and planning.
So for years, I've introduced my kids to different countries and cultures thorough books, videos and some fun hands-on activities we can do close to home.
Learning about Countries & Cultures
I thought I would share some of our favorites children's books with you -- ones that not only highlight something about other countries but will also fuel a child's desire to learn more about cultures and traditions.
If you don't already have a map or globe around your home , I would highly recommend getting one so that you can 'track your travels' as you read.
How did we choose the books?
There are so many books that feature different cities and countries around the world.
For this list, I was looking for stories that were told from the point of view of a child or included detailed information about the location and culture. Instead of historical accounts, I included contemporary stories as much as possible. Some books highlight the country while others feature major cities from around the world.
Also, I love to pair extension activities to books we read so many of the books on our list include wonderful resource pages -- recipes, words from other languages, cultural activities.
Read about France and make a french snack, explore a book about Tokyo and learn some Japanese words -- the kids will really enjoy this type of hands-on learning. Be sure to check out the appendix area (usually located in the back of the book) to see what type of add-on activities can be done at home.
I've made sure that each of the items on our list is listed by country and includes an affiliate link so that you can find out more about each book.
So pull out your map along with some fun stickers to mark the locations and let's head off on a journey across the globe!
Kids Books about Countries and Cultures
CANADA: Canada All Year shares the travels of three animal friends as they experience some of the fun events and traditions of the country. The book covers all areas of Canada and highlights seasonal activities for each month of the year. Ages 2 - 7 years
NEW YORK CITY (United States): Although I wasn't crazy over the rhyming text in Larry Gets Lost in New York City , I did love the illustrations and antics of Larry, a dog who gets lost in New York City (and experiences all the sights and sounds as he looks for his family). And if you enjoyed Larry's trip through NYC, check out his other travels in this book series ! Ages 3 - 8 years.
UNITED STATES: To get an idea of the variety of cultures, traditions and landscape across the United States, read Wow! America! with the kids. Follow Izzy and her sister as they criss-cross the country seeing some of the outstanding landmarks and geography. Ages 3 - 8 years.
MEXICO: Off We Go to Mexico is an amazingly colorful walk through the country! Kids will enjoy the lyrical verse on each page along with the vocabulary words. There's quite a bit of detail on each page so allow kids to linger and ask questions. The story is also offered in a Spanish edition, Nos Vamos a Mexico! Ages 3 - 9 years.
HONDURAS - I love the books published by CitizenKid! In The Good Garden: How One Family Went from Hunger to Having Enough , the reader learns how a family from Honduras is able to make a living my producing their own garden. Books with topics like this are great to introduce to kids so they are able to see how families around the world live and work. Ages 5 - 12+ years.
GUATEMALA: This is a unique story in that it takes place in Central America but is a story about Chinese immigrants who moved to the area. Mama & Papa Have A Store shares the blending of two cultures as a family opens a fabric store in Guatemala. The colorful illustations can tell their own story but are brought to life through the descriptive text. Ages 4 - 9 years.
CARIBBEAN: I had to include a book about island life on our list since the world has so many cool places to live (and my son dreams about moving to Figi one day ;) Caribbean Journey from A to Y (Read and Discover What Happened to the Z) is a beautiful and extremely educational look at the culture and geography of the Caribbean Islands. I just LOVE the map they've included plus all the facts listed on each page. Ages 3 - 11 years.
PERU: In Up and Down the Andes , the reader has the opportunity to meet children from around Peru who are all traveling to one of their festivals -- each using a different type of transportation to get there. Ages 3 - 8 years.
COLUMBIA: Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia I'm a fan of any book that tells the story of books :) Biblioburro is a factual account of one librarian in Columbia who overcomes the local terrain in order to deliver books to children. Not all libraries are housed in buldings! Ages 3 - 8 years.
BRAZIL: I didn't include many non-fiction books on the list but this one was very appealing to me. Children will quickly identify with the daily living shared in Cassio's Day: From Dawn to Dusk in a Brazilian Village. The books makes it easy to notice some similarities in how children live across different countries while also learning about the cultural differences. The real-life photos are very appealing and I loved the additional factual details shared throughout the story. Ages 3 - 8 years.
LONDON (England): Enjoy the wonderful sites and culture of England with A Walk in London . Follow along as a mom and daughter explore some of the best landmarks and spots in the big city. Lots of trivia and a great fold-out section in the back! Ages 3 - 11 years.
VENICE (Italy): Explore one of the most famous city's in Itay through This Is Venice . Learn about the famous landmarks, culture and wonderful details of this gorgeous European city -- along with some fun facts and beautiful illustrations. Ages 3 - 12 years.
This book is part of a wonderful series that's also featured in our Wonderful Book Series that Take Kids Around the World too!
PARIS (France): Enjoy a young girls' experiences in Paris in Postmark Paris: A Story in Stamps . Fun journal-like pages showcase the family's move to the city for a year, some of the sights of Paris and the beautiful stamps that are used as souvenirs for friends back in the states. Ages 3 - 9 years.
SPAIN: This is one of those books where a picture is worth a thousand words! Anno's Spain is a gorgeous, wordless book that features some of the beautiful places across the country of Spain. Kids will adore searching through the details of each illustration as they discover some of the wonderful landmarks and geographic beauty of the country. Ages 3 - 11 years.
RUSSIA: Russia is actually a country located on two continents (Europe and Asia) and one that many people know more about after the hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Like the opening ceremonies at the Olympics, Russia ABCs: A Book About the People and Places of Russia gives many details about the culture, geography and traditions of the people and country. Ages 4 - 10 years.
Related Activity: Map Your Summer Reading
This is a must-start-with book! Africa Is Not A Country does a wonderful job of explaining the uniqueness of various countries on the continent. So many kids think that Africa is a country so this book will really be a wealth of knowledge. Ages 4 - 10 years.
CAIRO (Egypt): Go on a trip around Egypt with your two favorite chihuahuas in Let's Visit Cairo!: Adventures of Bella & Harry. Kids will love to see how much of the ancient culture (the pyramids and Valley of the Kings) still remains in Cairo today. Plus, learn some basic Arabic and hieroglypics too! Ages 3 - 9 years.
MOROCCO: Mirror is a great read that showcases the day-in-the-life of a child in Morocco and in Australia (mirror images). Kids will enjoy seeing the similarities and differences that take place during everyday life in two countries. Ages 3 - 9 years.
TANZANIA: Head to the classroom on the first day of school with Elizabeti's School . See the similarities and differences as you compare school in Tanzania with school in your own country. Ages 3 - 8 years.
MALI: I Lost My Tooth In Africa is a fun look at a childhood right of passage. Amina wants nothing more than to lose her tooth during her family's trip to Africa -- then she can place it under a guord for the African Tooth Fairy who will exchange it for two chickens. Children will love to learn more about how traditions change across countries. Ages 3 - 8 years.
GHANA: Another book from a great publisher (CitizenKid), One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference is based on a true story of how one person can change a whole community. Kojo, a young boy, receives a loan to buy one hen in order to start his own business. That invest goes on to benefit a whole village. This is a great book for kids of all ages -- even teens! Ages 5 - 12+ years.
AUSTRALIA: Are We There Yet? is the summary of a one-of-a-kind road trip across Australia! Follow 8-year-old Grace and her family across the continent as we learn about the wonderful diversity of the country. Enjoy the layout of the story (which is more like a family photo album) and map. Ages 3 - 9 years.
AUSTRALIA: And since Australia is both a country and a continent, I thought it deserved two choices ;)
D is for Down Under: An Australia Alphabet shares all the wonderful things about the country and continent of Australia. This is part of a book series that has titles for many countries. I really like the breadth of the content which covers some of the history, geography, animals and natural formations of the country. Ages 4 - 10 years.
JAPAN: I Live in Tokyo was one of my favorite reads mainly because the book is set up to review the fun and festivities throughout the year. Read about the experiences of Mimiko, a 7-year-old, as she introduces us to some of the food, celebrations and traditions of Tokyo. Ages 3 - 10 years.
IRAQ: Any reader will fall in love with the determination of The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq . Based on the true story of a librarian who worked to save a priceless collection of books in a war-torn country, this story shows a peek into some of the culture, values and traditions of Iraq and its people. Ages 5 - 12 years.
CHINA: There are so many wonderful children's books that highlight historical times in China but I really wanted a story that featured more modern-day activities. My China Travel Journal fit the bill -- it's written from the perspective of a 9-year-old girl who visits China with her family and journals about all the new and interesting things she sees during her trip. Ages 4 - 10 years.
PAKISTAN: Four Feet, Two Sandals is a wonderful story of sharing. When one pair of sandals is sent to a refugee camp in Pakistan, two girls each find one of the shoes. Lina and Feroza decide to share the sandals as they both wait for their chance to go to America. A very good insight into the experiences of refugee children. Ages 5 - 11 years.
INDIA: An award-winning book, Finders Keepers? shares the true story of a lost wallet found and returned in India. There are some wonderful introductions to various cultural traditions from the country. Gorgeous illustrations and some wonderful details about the customs make this a great read! Ages 3 - 11 years.
KOREA: The Trip Back Home highlights the travels of a young girl who visits her mother's home country of Korea. Readers will enjoy learning about the daily activities and events of the family along with some native words that are interspearsed throughout the text. Ages 3 - 7 years.
ALASKA: I really wanted to include at least one book from an arctic village -- it's a challenge to find a good contemporary picture book of this nature so if you've read any, please do leave a comment!
Meet Lydia: A Native Girl from Southeast Alaska highlights the culture and modern tribal traditions of young girl living in an Alaskan village. I love the glimpse we get into this remote area and the text is very descriptive, teaching the reader quite a bit about the area. Ages 6 - 11 years.
I'd love to hear about your favorite 'Around the World' reads!
Be sure to let us know what books you love to use for armchair travels in the comments.