Episode 24: Helping Our Kids Appreciate Other Cultures and TCK’s

In this episode we look at several books about other cultures and books for and about TCK’s (Third Culture Kids). 

Books Discussed in This Episode:

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Welcome to “Books that Spark” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids.

I have some great books to share with you today. They are so fun to read, and they’re about multiculturalism, about traveling, these are good for third culture kids. I’m going to just go through these. These are some of my favorite picture books. One is called Rice and Rocks by Sandra L. Richards illustrated by Megan Kayleigh Sullivan. And this is about a little boy who eats rice and beans all the time. And he calls them rice and rocks. Jasper is his companion, and he is a Congo African gray parrot. It’s told in the first person by this little boy, and his friends are coming over. They’re serving rice and beans, and he’s embarrassed even though that’s his traditional Jamaican dish that they do on Sundays. His bird friend teaches him differently. His bird takes him on an adventure, and they go to different countries. And in each country you get introduced to a different bird and you get introduce to a different meal that the people of that country eat, that includes rice and beans or rice and rocks. And so that goes through the whole story and it teaches you all these different recipes, all these different dishes from different countries. And then at the end, his friends all talk about how much they love his rice and rocks because at their house, when they’re having a celebration, they eat this kind of food too. And when they’re, you know, it reminds them of this, and it reminds them of that. And it just is so much fun to help a child recognize that they can embrace their culture, not be embarrassed by it, and enjoy the foods that are native to their country and culture. And that we’re also not that different around the world. We all kind of appreciate the same things, and we celebrate our meals together. Different meals have different meanings. And I mean, every culture is that way in one way or another. It’s just a very cute book.

Another one (I have several about food) is called How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman and illustrated by Allen Say. This is about a mom who is Japanese and a dad who is American. Then when they start dating, they don’t go to eat anywhere because he doesn’t know how to use chopsticks, and she’s afraid to try to use a fork and knife. Finally, they talk about it, and they wind up learning to eat each other’s way. The man learns to use chopsticks and the girl learns to use a fork and knife, and they learn to appreciate each other’s culture. And then of course, they get married and have a little girl named Ina. I love it because, of course, our family learned to use chopsticks. And I think they’re way better to use than the forks and knives. But anyway—

This other one is a beautiful book called My Breakfast with Jesus, written by Tina Cho, illustrated by Guy Wolek. It is worshiping God around the world. It quotes at the beginning, Deuteronomy 12 seven. There you shall eat before the Lord, your God, and you shall rejoice you and your households in all that you undertake in which the Lord your God has blessed you. And in the first part of the story, it talks about when Jesus met with the disciples at the seashore and he fixed breakfast for them after his crucifixion in John 21, it shows different places around the world and how they have breakfast and how in each situation they have what they eat. But the similarity in every situation is that they pray and thank God for their food. Then it talks about each of the meals that are presented. It doesn’t give the actual recipe, but tells you about them and the name of the dish. So if someone wanted to look up how to make them, they could, I’m only sad that they don’t have my favorite breakfast in here from Asia, but that’s okay.

Let me read you a short excerpt from one of the pages. It says, “Coffee diluted with milk warms Mariana’s mug in Brazil. Her friends stop by so they can walk to school together. They gulp down ham and cheese with bread and pray together over school. A peppy way to start the day. A breakfast blessing.” And then it has a side note. “Some Brazilian children drink coffee, which parents believe help them stay alert throughout the day. Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world.”

And on each page too, as they describe the different breakfasts, it has an adjective, “a peppy way to start the day,” “a loving way to start the day,” “a sweet way to start the day.” And so, I liked that as well, because I love words and language.

Another lovely book by Dorena Williamson illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright, and Ying Hwa-Hu is Colorfull (with two L’s) Celebrating the Colors God Gave Us. And this one is more a multicultural book about the different colors around us, in dealing with skin color and how our skin color is different and embracing that and appreciating that in each person. It’s a very nice book. It says, “Summer had finally arrived, and Mani was excited to blow bubbles and jump on the trampoline and climb trees. She and her little brother, Christopher, were waiting for their friend, Kayla, to join in the fun.

“Hi, guys want to see who can blow the biggest, most poppable bubble?” asked Kayla, as she climbed over the fence. “Wow! Look at my bubble,” said Christopher, “It’s full of swirly colors.” “I’ve got colors floating in mine too,” Kayla added. “I never knew bubbles could have so many colors,” said Amani. And then grandma comes up and she says, “Well, you all are amazing bubble-makers,” said Granny Mac walking outside to join the kids. “Look,” said Christopher, “my bubble is ginormous and has 50 gazillion colors in it.” “How about that?” said Granny Mac. “Aren’t colors wonderful?” “Mine has pink and purple–my favorite,” said Kayla.” “Well, isn’t that something,” said Granny Mac. “Right in this backyard, what other colorful things do you see?” And so, they start looking at flowers. They look at the trees, they look at the animals, they look at fruits and vegetables, and then they start looking each other and realize that they have different colors as well and different colored hair, different color eyes. And then it says, “God must love color to have made all of Earth’s people with such wonderful shades. That’s something to celebrate. We can celebrate all our differences, the color of our skin, the texture of our hair, the shape of our eyes, nose and lips. Every single person is a part of God’s grand design.” And then it goes on and finishes the story in the end with colorful ice cream, which is a good way to end a story.

There’s another really touching story called Far from Home: A Story of Loss, Refuge, and Hope by Sarah Parker Rubio illustrated by Fatima Anaya. And this one is about a refugee family and how they have to leave their home and go to a new place to be safe. The little boy is, of course, sad to leave his home. He’s scared. He doesn’t know what’s going on and why they have to leave.

And then when they get where they’re going, they have to wait and wait and wait. Then he doesn’t like that either. But then this old lady from his country, who’s already here. She starts sharing with him a story about another family that were refugees. And it’s the story of Jesus and how they had to flee their country for Jesus to be safe. And then she tells what happened and how Jesus became the savior of the world. So she encourages him and lets him know that he’s going to have a new home. Then he gets a new home and he embraces his new house and he likes his new room, but ends with a really positive note, even though they acknowledge it’s not easy to move to a new country. And especially when you have to leave behind everything you love and know, you may never get to go back and it ends with the scripture from Matthew 2:13- 14, “An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up, flee to Egypt with the child, Jesus and his mother.’ The angel said, ‘Stay there until I tell you to return because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.’ That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother.” This is a beautiful book and really deals with a lot of the emotions and feelings a child may have if they have to flee their country.

And one book I’ve talked about before that, I have to mention again, because I love it so much. It’s called Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say, and this is his story, his grandfather’s story and his own story about being Japanese American, well, being Japanese and immigrating to America and his grandfather’s life and how he was always sad. You always miss the place you’re not in, even though you love the place where you are.

And then one book that is rare, and I think you can only find it on Amazon, is a collection of stories and experiences from third culture kids. And it’s called The Kid’s Guide to Living Abroad written and compiled by Martine Zoer illustrated by Michelle Christensen. And if you get this book, you’ll find one page that is actually written by my oldest daughter. Martine contacted several kids living abroad and had them share their experiences. It’s kind of a cool compilation of different children’s experiences around the world, living in a different country. Some are from the United States, some are from other places living in different countries. So it’s not all just an American perspective of living abroad. I think that’s kind of neat.

And there’s a lot of books too. If you’re in a situation with your kids being third culture kids, that’s what TCK stands for third culture kids, children who have been raised in a culture other than their original native culture. They never quite fit in their original culture. They never quite fit in the culture they’ve adopted because you have a mixture of cultures. And like Allen Say says in his book, you know, the minute you’re in one place, you miss the other place. Third culture kids live this way. And my husband’s a third culture kid. My children are third culture kids. I’ve kind of become an adult third culture kid, but I can definitely see a difference between what my experience has been living overseas and moving back home and what my kids and my husband’s experience has been. I’m more satisfied with just staying here and being home. This is where we are. I miss Taiwan. And if, you know, that door opened, I would gladly walk through it to move back there, but I’m okay being home too. But my kids are less satisfied, and my husband is less satisfied with just staying here. They really miss their home. And for my husband, Singapore was  originally what he considered home, although he lived in Venezuela first, and his first language was Spanish. And then when he was eight or nine, they moved to Singapore, and he graduated from high school in Singapore and then actually went back for a while before finishing college. Then we moved to Taiwan after we got married and had been, well, in 1999, we moved to Taiwan. So he’s lived more of his life in Asia than anywhere else. So that feels like home to him, and for my kids, they’ve lived, well, at least half their life in Asia because none of my kids are 30 yet, and we lived in Taiwan for 15 years. So, you know, at least half their lives were overseas, a difficult adjustment. So if you know anyone who is experiencing that, there’s a lot of really great books for third culture kids. There’s a lot of great books for those who are not third culture kids to understand third culture kids. If you happen to be a teacher and you’re teaching third culture kids, whether they’re missionary kids or refugees or whatever, you can gain so much understanding by reading some of these books for teachers of third culture kids, a couple of books for talking with and dealing with third culture kids. If you’re a teacher or a caregiver, who’s working with children, who’ve lived in more than one culture. A couple of books I can recommend are Raising Up a Generation of Healthy Third Culture Kids: A Practical Guide to Preventive Care by Lauren Wells. It’s got very short sections in most of the book and simple activities and ideas for helping children to deal with the grief and the trauma of moving from one culture to another of dealing with their own feelings of sadness and embracing the opportunity.

And that is one of the beautiful things about third culture kids and living cross-culturally is that you get to experience so much, and you get to meet people from so many other places. We could go pretty much anywhere in the world, and we have friends there. We may only have one friend there, but we have friends all over the world. And my kids love to know that they have friends all over the world, wherever they go.

And other one is Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by David C Pollock, Ruth E. Van Reken, and Michael V Pollock. It says this book is “the Bible for anyone who wants to understand the blessings in the curses of growing up multiculturally.” And that’s a quote from William Paul Young, author of The Shack. This is the third edition. In the first edition. David Pollock started it. This was in 1999. “Third culture kids, TCK’s, are not new and they are not few. They have been a part of the Earth’s population from the earliest migrations. They are normal people with the usual struggles and pleasures of life, but because they have grown up with different experiences from those who have lived primarily in one culture, we have seen a set of patterns of behavior or reactions to life emerge that stem from the cross-cultural and high mobility aspects of their upbringing. As I have shared these observations with TCK’s, their parents, teachers, and caregivers throughout the world, a multitude of TCK’s have validated that this is indeed their story.” This book deals with the experience of being a TCK and what that means. Just to understand the way they think, the way they feel. And my own experience has been that TCK’s tend to react one way or the other when they grow up. They either stay put and never move again, or they never stay put. But I think that’s very interesting. My husband is the one who never stayed put. His two brothers are the ones who never moved. They both still live relatively, well, one lives right in the same town where he has always lived since he got married or in the same vicinity; the other one lives within a short distance of where he has always lived. This book deals with adult TCK’s, and how to have a healthy life as an adult, how to deal with your grief, how to deal with your feelings and experiences. And it is a grieving process. It took us with moving back to the States, I would say a year or two, to even feel at home. Again, we actually worked in an American church for three years and never felt quite at home, even though we loved the people and loved being there. And we are now working in an international church and feel much more at home in the international community. Finding those places where they can fit in and feel understood and deal with the craziness–that is who we are and what we deal with after living in other cultures. And this is becoming more and more a common part of people’s lives. Now I think it’s rare to find people who stay in the same place their whole lives. We are much more of a mobile world than we used to be and have experienced many more cultures. I think these books can be quite helpful in helping us to understand each other, helping us to understand ourselves, and to know how to deal with the feelings we have. But we can also do that through the picture books that I mentioned and help children to appreciate each other, to have understanding for each other, whatever, our different cultures, ethnic groups, whatever we’re going through as different people, to learn to just be compassionate, to learn to be peacemakers, and to love one another and encourage one another. That’s what we’re commanded to do as believers in Christ. And it doesn’t matter what age we are. That is the command that God has given us–to encourage one another, to build each other up, spur each other onto good works and to love one another. And so if we can help our children learn to appreciate people as unique individuals and look at different experiences in different cultures as something interesting to learn about and to often embrace or to appreciate at least, then life is full and life is rich. And I highly recommend getting to know some of the immigrants and refugees in your area and learning their culture, learning some of their language, and helping them to learn our culture and language.

Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions. I hope our discussion will spark meaningful conversations with the children in your life. Please check out my website at TerrieHellardBrown.com. When you sign up for my mailing list, you receive several freebies, and joining my mailing list, you will get one to two emails typically per week: one when the podcasts posts, and one when I put up a blog post. This podcast posts each Tuesday; a blog post goes up each Thursday. And right now, if you go to my blog or to the show notes for this podcast, you will see a link to download the advent calendar listing a Christmas book a day for the whole month of December. I’ve also included a 25 Acts of Kindness file that you can use with your family. It’s a free download as well. I tried to choose activities that are COVID- friendly. So, your family can find ways to do acts of kindness to bless people this season. Those are free for you to download, and I hope that you and your family can enjoy those books together and make memories together during this special holiday season.

Your Host:

Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.

Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.

Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.

For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com

Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.

Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.

Disclaimer: Although Terrie majored in psychology and sociology for her bachelor’s degree and has taught AP Psychology, she is NOT a licensed therapist. She sometimes mentions items in her blog and podcast that could be considered comments on psychology, but these comments are based on ministry experience and ministering to people through the missions and church work she’s done for the past 36 years. If you have questions about psychological disorders or counseling needs, please consider finding a reputable, licensed counselor in your area. Terrie’s comments should be seen as anecdotal and ministry-experience-related or scripture-based. Thank you!

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