8 Books to Teach Your Kids About the World

by katie Sorene

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It doesn’t take much to get you excited about the big wide world, but what about your kids?

Teaching children about other cultures is a great way to instill in them an early sense of exploration.

Luckily, there are many beautifully written and illustrated books that showcase both the similarities and differences between cultures around the world.

Here are 8 of the best books available to teach your kids / students about the world and all its people.


With six billion people currently living on the planet, it can be hard for a kid to understand what that means or might look like.

Author David J. Smith and illustrator Shelagh Armstrong approach this conundrum by imagining the entire world was just a village of 100 people.

Using global statistics, Smith shows that in this community of 100, 22 speak Chinese, 9 speak English, and 7 speak Spanish.

Other interesting facts include 76 people have electricity and 24 do not, but most who do have electricity only use it at night.

The illustrations are multicultural and the author compares past and future trends throughout the world.

This book can help children (and adults) to grasp a basic understanding of language, religion, and privilege around the world.

Though it is geared toward younger children, it is popular with all age groups.

(Reading level ages 4-8)


We all know that water is important for the survival of every living thing on Earth. But it’s sometimes hard to understand the full impact water has on our lives, especially as a child.

The many uses of water are illustrated in this book, all the way from creating drinks to making computers and cars.

Author Rochelle Strauss explains how water is connected throughout the world, noting that whether you are turning on a faucet in North America, pulling water from a well in Kenya, or bathing in a river in India, it’s all the same water.

She also shines a spotlight on the impact of pollution, stating that “every day 1.8 million tonnes (2 million tons) of garbage are dumped into Earth’s water – enough to fill more than 15,000 boxcars.”

(Reading level ages 9-12)


A Life Like Mine shows the world through the eyes of 18 children, and breaks down what it means to live in different cultures through sections on survival, development, protection and participation.

Instead of looking simply at statistics, this book explores the lives of these children through the lens of basic needs such as water, food, home, education, religion, and love.

It quickly becomes clear that whilst most children from certain countries have these basic needs met, many in other countries do not.

Produced in conjunction with UNICEF, this book provides awe-inspiring photos alongside its descriptions of children’s lives.

(Reading level ages 9-12)


No More Strangers Now looks at the lives of 12 children just after the fall of apartheid in South Africa.

The teens in this book are honest in their experiences of prejudice – either giving or receiving it – depending on their ethnicity.

The complexities are exemplified by stories like the girl who wasn’t white enough under apartheid but now isn’t black enough under the free government.

Author Tim McKee notes, “The book helps young people in other countries learn about South Africa through the words of their South African counterparts. It illustrates the unique lives of South Africans, but it also demonstrates the common struggles all young people face.”

(Reading level ages 10-up)


National Geographic developed this photograph book, showing how different life is through the everyday things that kids do.

Pictures of kids who live across the world from each other are placed beside each other on the page, with a girl riding a school bus in America juxtaposed against a boy in China who uses a zipline to cross a river to get to school.

This is a great book to see how children move through their day with similar attitudes and expectations, doing similar things, but in very different ways.

(Reading levels ages 4-8)


For the younger child comes the book Houses and Homes, where author Ann Morris provides simple descriptions of different types of houses around the world.

The photographs capture everything from homes in the English countryside to thatched huts in Africa.

Houses and Homes also showcases the relationships between home, climate, and culture the world over.

This book can be used as a great conversation-starter with a toddler or pre-schooler to begin opening their eyes to how different people live across the world.

(Reading level ages baby-pre-school)


“What’s that weird thing they’re eating?” your child might ask as they flip through the pages of this book.

Explained through the use of special occasions such as a fiesta in Mexico and mushrooming in France, this book describes different families, lifestyles, traditions, and most importantly foods throughout the world.

The book uses bright photographs to show the deliciousness of the foods and the enjoyment on the children’s faces.

There is a glossary for different foods, and the book even includes recipes for each child’s favorite dish, which can be a fun opportunity to teach your kids about new and nutritious foods.

(Reading level ages 4-8)


Peter Spier’s People is hailed as a celebration of the world’s diversity.

Colorful illustrations line the pages and explain the traditions of different cultures ranging from the Chinese to Native Americans.

Though some of the references to certain cultures are outdated since the book was written over 30 years ago, its message of respect for the many types of people that inhabit the world is evident.

People was the winner winner of the 1980 Christopher Medal award. It provides a great message to children.

(Reading level ages 4-8)

How do you teach your kids / students about the world? Got more books to add to the list? Share your comments below!

If you liked this, you might also like: 8 Superb Children’s Books About Travel.

Main image by GoodNCrazy.

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15 comments… read them below or Add a Comment

Joanne O'Sullivan

To get kids excited about travel, I would also recommend my book, 101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12! It’s a global scavenger hunt of places for kids!


Hey there!

These books will definitely help make your kids aware of what’s going on in the world, and encourage them to look beyond themselves and make a change! The second one will actually help parents accompany their kids on a journey of discovery and compassion.

Take More Action: How to Change the World
by Shankaran Kielburger, Mark Kielburger, Deepa Shankaran

The World Needs Your Kid: How to Raise Children Who Care and Contribute
by Craig Kielburger, Marc Kielburger


Kerry Arslan

Thanks for the article will certainly be looking at buying some for my kids. I think its important for children to travel from a young age and experience all the world has to offer. It also helps the to develop good language skills, freindships skills and learning about the world.

Christine Garvin

@Joanne and @geoalex, thanks for the additional recommendations!

@Kerry, I totally agree.


What a great list. I am going to buy a few of your recommendations for my niece.

jamie - cloud people adventures

getting kids globally aware is such an important lesson. these books look great.
i think a lot of adults could probably do with reading them as well.


Really great list! We also love What the World Eats and Material World, both by Peter Menzel

Shelly Rivoli

Thanks for these great recommendations! I will add them to our family’s reading list.


There’s also NatGeo World Atlas for Young Explorers… can’t go wrong with all the beautiful pictures from across the world, and not to mention the maps.


This is a great list to introduce kids to world travel. Our son goes to the American School in Singapore and he is currently studying third world cultures, so we have read the Oxfam book “Let’s Eat” and the UNISEF book “A World Like Mine”. Both are great books to introduce kids about travel and world cultures. Thanks for sharing!

wandering educators

i love this list – esp d. smith’s book (1st one)!


We found this great iPad app which is like a virtual trip to the zoo. Lots of animals, birds and reptiles . Great for kids with exciting videos and narration.

An Amazing Day At The Zoo: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/an-amazing-day-at-the-zoo/id420420133?mt=8

The Deep Blue Kingdom: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-deep-blue-kingdom/id425904157?mt=8&ls=1

More info: http://LearningInfinity.com

WWF Travel

The WWF Travel Blog selected this article as one of the top reads in conservation & travel this week. Here’s the link if you’re interested in seeing it. http://www.wwfblogs.org/travel/


So happy to have found this. Got 4 young nephews who’ll definitely be getting at least 1 of these books from Aunt Spinster. :-)

ספרי ילדים

now you gave me a great idea i have 2 nephews and i never know what to get them now i know for next time wha to get them

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