Our 10 Favorite Multicultural Books for Fifth Grade

Reading books with children at the elementary age not only helps them better prepare for school, but it also opens their minds to new cultures and experiences. Exposing children early to both “mirror” and “window” books – that is, books in which they can see themselves, and books in which they can learn about others- is the best way to create engaged readers and support social and emotional growth.

Lee & Low Books offers hundreds of great books for fifth graders. Our books include English, Spanish, and bilingual titles; books about many different cultures; books that span a wide range of subjects and themes; and both fiction and nonfiction. Browse our 3-6 classroom collections to see what we offer, and check out our other book lists by grade:

While we have hundreds of titles to choose from, here are 10 of our absolute favorite diverse books for fifth grade!

Favorite Multicultural Books for 5th grade

1. Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar:

ahimsa cover

In 1942, after Mahatma Gandhi asks Indians to give one family member to the freedom movement, ten-year-old Anjali must learn to accept the new changes in her life when her mother decides to join. Along with this comes many more adjustments designed to improve their country and use “ahimsa”—non-violent resistance—to stand up to the British government. When her mother decides to reach out to the Dalit community, the “untouchables” of society, Anjali is forced to get over her past prejudices as her family becomes increasingly involved in the movement. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

2. Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue with Today’s Youth by Rosa Parks: 

dear mrs parks cover

Affectionately referred to as the “Mother of the Modern Day Civil Rights Movement,” Mrs. Parks received 500 to 1,000 letters a month from children throughout the United States and the world. Dear Mrs. Parks grew out of Rosa Parks’ desire to share her legacy with all “her children,” and perpetuate a dialogue that will be recorded for generations to come. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

3. Galaxy Games by Greg Fishbone:

galaxy games cover

Things are looking up for Tyler Sato (literally!) as he and his friends scan the night sky for a star named for him by his Tokyo cousins in honor of his eleventh birthday. Soon the whole world is talking about TY SATO, the doomsday asteroid, and life is turned upside down for Ty Sato, the boy, who would rather be playing hoops in his best friend’s driveway. Meanwhile M’Frozza is the captain of planet Mrendaria’s Galaxy Games team, and she is desperate to save her world from a dishonorable performance in the biggest sporting event in the universe. What will happen when Ty meets M’Frozza? Get ready for the most important event in human history—it’ll be off the backboard, around the rim, and out of this world! See the Teacher’s Guide here.

4. Dia’s Story Cloth: The Hmong People’s Journey of Freedom by Dia, Chue, and Nhia Thao Cha:

dia's story cloth cover

For centuries, needlework has been part of Hmong culture. But it has only been since the war in Vietnam and Laos, which displaced many Hmong, that the new, narrative form of ”story cloths” has emerged, a bridge between past and present. This book explores many aspects of the Hmong experience from peace and war in Asia to new beginnings in America. Through Dia’s story, young children can see that the search for freedom transcends all cultures. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

5. Twenty-two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo, illus. by Jamel Akib:

twenty two cents cover

Growing up in Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus witnessed extreme poverty all around and was determined to eradicate it. After meeting a young craftswoman who was forced to borrow from corrupt lenders who charged an unfair interest rate, he founded Grameen Bank where people could borrow small amounts of money to start a job, and then pay back the bank without exorbitant interest charges. Over the next few years, Muhammad’s compassion and determination changed the lives of millions of people by loaning the equivalent of more than ten billion US dollars in micro-credit. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

6. Vanishing Cultures: Himalaya by Jan Reynolds: 

himalaya cover

Explore the majesty of the Himalayans and its people with photojournalist Jan Reynolds. Reynolds takes the reader on a journey through the eyes of a child into his or her world—offering a window into daily life, family relations, food, chores, games, and special traditions. Each perceptive profile highlights the unique environments and customs that make the society special, as well as the universal humanity that connects us all. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

7. Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan by Mary Williams, illus. by R. Gregory Christie:

brothers in hope cover

Eight-year-old Garang is tending cattle far from his family’s home in southern Sudan when war comes to his village. Soon he meets other boys whose villages have been attacked. Before long they become a moving band of thousands, walking hundreds of miles seeking safety — first in Ethiopia and then in Kenya. Based on heartbreaking yet inspirational true events in the lives of the Lost Boys of Sudan, this is a story of remarkable and enduring courage, and an amazing testament to the unyielding power of the human spirit. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

8. Amazing Places by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illus. by Christy Hale and Chris Soentpiet: 

amazing places

In this collection of original poems, acclaimed anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins brings together fourteen selections that celebrate through poetic imagery some of the amazingly diverse places in our nation. The poems as a whole take readers on an exciting multiethnic travelogue around the United States and encourage a positive appreciation of our country’s historical, environmental, and cultural heritage. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

9. Growing Peace: A Story of Farming, Music, and Religious Harmony by Richard Sobol:

growing peace cover

J.J. Keki, a Ugandan musician and coffee farmer, was determined to find a way for people who held different religious beliefs to work together after witnessing the September 11 terrorist attacks. He saw that the neighborhood children, from Jewish, Muslim, and Christian families, played with one another without a care about religion. Why not enlist their parents, all coffee farmers like himself, in a cooperative venture around a shared goal? Together they would grow, harvest, and sell their coffee. At the same time, they would bridge religious differences to work and live together peacefully. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

10. ¡Beisbol! Latino Baseball Pioneers and Legends by Jonah Winter:

beisbol cover

Baseball, known as America’s favorite pastime, is a favorite sport in Latin America as well. In this fascinating and colorfully written collection of profiles, readers learn about Latino baseball heroes, including little known pioneers of the sport. See the Teacher’s Guide here.

Further Reading

Compare and Contract Common Core Lesson Plan for Fifth Grade

What Does Close Reading Look Like in Fifth Grade? 

Integrating Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Standards in Grades 4-5

Also check out our amazing Grade 3-5 collections:

kindness and compassion collectionAsian/Asian American English Collection Grades 3-5

Black History Collection Grades 3-6

Realistic Fiction Grades 3-5

Pedro Noguera Diverse Collection Grades 3-5

Kindess and Compassion Collection

Cinderella Around the World Collection

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