harmony day books

6 Books To Read for Harmony Day (Guest post)

Mar 11, 2024

We have a special guest writer on the blog this week: my very own daughter, Ashleigh Leung!

Ash teaches a year 5 class at a large primary school (approx. 1000 students) in Melbourne's northern suburbs. Her school's population is quite diverse, with 61% of students having English as an additional language.

I thought this made her the perfect choice to guest write a blog post on books teachers can use to celebrate Harmony Day / Week with their students.

Over to you, Ash!

P.S Ash can be found on Instagram at @that.explicit.teacher

Harmony Day is fast approaching on March the 21st. With this in mind, I wanted to share some books that I have tried and tested in the classroom myself, that could be used to promote the values behind Harmony Day with your students.


What is Harmony Day?

Harmony Day is celebrated by Australia and during schools within Harmony Week. It is a day surrounding the awareness and celebration of our country’s diverse multiculturalism. The ongoing slogan ‘Everybody Belongs’ highlights the importance of promoting inclusion of all people within our community.


Where did Harmony Day originate?

I’m proud to say… Australia was the birthplace of Harmony Day! It started in 1999 and was inspired by the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination declared by the United Nations.


Why orange?

Orange is the colour of choice because it symbolises communication, meaningful conversation and mutual respect between all people. As a teacher, I completely understand that orange isn’t at the height of current teacher fashion and can be hard to come by. But wearing orange will demonstrate your support for all cultures that make up Australia this Harmony Day.


6 Texts to read this Harmony Day


1. This Is Not My Home

Written by Eugenia Yoh, illustrated by Vivienne Chang

I found this story to be full of complex feelings about moving countries. We have a girl and her mother moving to Taiwan. For the mother, she is moving to what she knows as home. On the other hand, her daughter experiences all the emotions of uprooting life as she knows it and immigrating to a new country.


2. The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name

Written by Sandhya Parappukkaran, illustrated by Michelle Periera

Here’s the first line from the blurb: “No one should ever have to shrink themselves down to fit in.” Do I really need to say anything more about this one? This book is about a small boy who feels ashamed of his long, foreign-sounding name. Students in my year 5 class have made some very personal connections to this text. In particular they’ve connected to the parts of their lives when they’ve felt shame or embarrassment. Fortunately, they are learning how to overcome this.


3. My Two Blankets

Written by Irena Kobald, illustrated by Freya Blackwood

I’m a lover of books that include a second language and My Two Blankets is written in both English and Arabic. A favourite memory of mine while reading this book to my students was watching their faces light up when they realised they were able to read BOTH languages written on the pages! This story follows a girl who moves to a new country, where everything is new and unfamiliar. Despite differences in cultural backgrounds and languages spoken, a comforting friendship is formed along this girl’s journey.


4. I’m Australian Too

Written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Ghosh Ronojoy

A regular appearance in primary school libraries is I’m Australian Too by Mem Fox.

This text introduces many stories of the people who call Australia home and the journey they took to get here. This is a great text for promoting understanding and also for celebrating multiculturalism in Australia.


5. The Proudest Blue

Written by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali, illustrated by Hatem Aly

A beautiful and moving story about hijab and what it represents, The Proudest Blue introduces two sisters on a very special day. We follow their journey of letting go of what others may think, and learning to be proud of what their hijab stands for. This is another heartwarming story that allowed students’ voices and stories to shine in the classroom. Every single person - in one way or another - was able to connect to the message of being proud of who they are and their special cultural differences.


6. Stand Up and Speak Out Against Racism

Written by Yassmin Abdel-Magied, illustrated by Aleesha Nandhra

This was an interesting and easy to digest book, but one I would recommend more for older readers. This nonfiction text informs readers about the history, impact and current state of racism in the world. I haven’t read this book in full with my students, however, I have been able to share some short paragraphs and ideas which have sparked interesting conversations in my Year 5 classroom. I have a high percentage of Arabic and Indian students in my class, and they have been able to make authentic connections to the issues presented within this text.

The author - who is an Australian citizen currently living in England- gave me goosebumps with some of her words! One particular piece of writing that had my skin tingling was this: ‘We don’t need people to be the same as us to care that we are all treated with the same respect and care.’


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