Nowadays developing Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is a task that should be added to any parenting goals list and to every teacher’s lesson plan. In an ever growing and changing world, having high levels of diversity awareness and being able to cross-culturally interact with other people are necessary tools to succeed in the future.
While many of the resources found online advice traveling as the number one step to promote cultural intelligence in children and young adults, I strongly believe that the world is an open book that can also be discovered through many relevant printed materials and enjoyed from the comfort of our own home. Magazines, online articles, travel brochures, and especially books are great allies when it comes to the challenges of becoming culturally intelligent.
*Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book below for review purposes; however all my opinions and those of my daughter are our own.*
The Adventures of Joy Sun Bear: The Blue Amber of Sumatra
For grownups to improve CQ is imperative to acknowledge biases, unlearn and refine all of our prejudices, habits, and beliefs that hold us back. This “unlearning” process can be quite difficult for many adults, because these aspects remain in a person’s core, thus requiring constant self-assessment. But for children, with the right guidance, developing CQ can be completely natural.
So how can we bestow our children with the inspiration and experiences to carry on becoming culturally intelligent? Where do we find age-appropriate information to motivate our kids to explore other traditions? The answer is BOOKS! And The Adventures of Joy Sun Bear: The Blue Amber of Sumatra is a great way to start!
When I first received the book I thought it was just another children’s book intended to entertain with beautiful illustrations and a fun message. Boy was I wrong! Joy Sun Bear is a character that represents the personal traits children need to increase their CQ and be diversity aware. Joy is curious, courageous, risk-taker, and with a strong sense of loyalty to friends (even those friends that don’t look like him at all). His adventures will take you and your little ones to a wonderful world of friendship, bravery, magical creatures, family support and camaraderie. But how to use this fun and colorful book to foster curiosity about diversity and inclusion?
I present you with 5 easy-to-follow steps to begin your child’s CQ journey using the book The Adventures of Joy Sun Bear: The Blue Amber of Sumatra by Blanca Carranza and John Lee.
- Talk about your own physical characteristics, talents and community.
It is imposible to develop Cultural Intelligence if we don’t learn about our own beliefs, culture and talents. Use description to talk to your children about Joy Sun Bear, how he looks, what he eats, where he lives. Bring those questions to your own family. How do we look? What do we eat? What language do we speak? Initiate your kids in the path of self-awareness.
Tipah looked at Joy’s long claws on her shoulder,
“Are these how you climb so well?”
Joy pulled his arm back and spread his claws wide,
“Yup! I also use them to collect honey. They help open
the honeycomb. It’s my favorite treat!”
2. Introduce distinct cultural values.
Perhaps we have a friend that speaks with a strong accent. Or maybe there is a classmate who dresses differently than your children. Connect real life situations with the facts presented in the book. Tipah is different from Joy, but that doesn’t prevent them from becoming friends and having a good time. Both have different features that make them unique, COOL! CQ is based on self-awareness and diverse values. Talk to your kids about distinct values and beliefs from other countries. Choose a country or an ethnicity and inform yourself about it. Then share your thoughts with your children while reading the book. Take your time! This book isn’t intended to be read in one night.
3. Plant the seed of cultural knowledge.
CQ knowledge is your understanding of how cultures are similar and different. Work with the chapters from the book “Introductions” and “Tricks”. Share with your children your thoughts about what you would say to someone you just met that looks very different from you. Highlight how Joy was afraid of Tipah even though he hadn’t met her before. The unknown is always scary.
Mama leaned over, “A refugee is someone who had
to flee their home because of something dangerous.”
“Like them,” Ayu said, waving her paw at all the
newcomers, “they had to flee because humans cut
down their forest.”
Develop a plan, a strategy, to approach people from other cultures, encourage language learning, and rehearse what to say when your kids ask the “wrong” questions to a person with different cultural values. Explain to them that it is always okay to make mistakes, and that just like Joy Sun Bear did, we must apologize and keep going.
4. Embrace feelings and recognize assumptions.
Papa Bear does a great job recognizing the courage of Joy and helping him embrace the fact that he was sad because he thought he had made a mistake. There are no good or bad emotions: they are simply feelings that must be embraced. Your children need to know that it is okay to feel fear of strangers that look differently or speak a foreign language. Consequently, our fears invite our mind to create scenarios that aren’t real. This is also normal.
But once we recognize what we feel and imagine, it is time for empathy. Some of the diverse people we encounter in our communities are victims of terrible experience, their homes are gone and they still have a long trek ahead of them. Guide your kids through this process. Use age-appropriate terms, explain current world news, but always keep in mind that as parents and educators it is our job to show children diversity in a fun way.
5. There is more than one way to be a hero.
Reading is a great way for children to encourage empathy in characters and situations completely unlike their own. Reading teaches us that there is more than one way to become a hero and that heroes come in many sizes, colors, sometimes wearing colorful clothes, a cape, a headscarf or a plaid skirt.
“Joy smiled. He wasn’t used to such bold ideas, but
he liked this one. The thought that he could charge in
and save the day made him feel strong, and important.”
In this book, as in many other real life scenarios, adults are always supposed to save the day, to come with great ideas and solutions to important problems. However, Joy Sun Bear shows us that courage and intelligence begin at a short age. He is a hero and so are your kids.
I invite you to be creative. We are our children’s role model. They look up to us to know how to act and how to behave. Invest time and resources to create a safe environment for your kids to experience diversity. Don’t be tempted to think that thinking cross-culturally is for expats, and also the rich and famous. Improving our Cultural Intelligence is a great way to prepare ourselves and our children for better job opportunities in the future.
This task might sound scary, but start simple. Build your own home library and include The Adventures of Joy Sun Bear: The Blue Amber of Sumatra in your book catalog.
Great tool! Great adventures! Great hero!
Click on these links for fun adventures with Joy Sun Bear:
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/GyUdYOAz9OY
Free Character Coloring Sheets and Reading Comprehension Crossword Puzzle for Download: http://joysunbear.com/blue-amber/
About the Authors
Blanca Carranza: Co-Author
Blanca Carranza is a former preschool teacher and globetrotter. Born in New York to Colombian parents, she spent her early life traveling around the world and listening to her grandmothers’ stories. She has visited fifteen countries across four continents. Her passion for exploring the world, combined with her study of child development, created a unique atmosphere in each of the daycares and preschools she has owned and operated.
From international music, to food, to art, she brought the world to the children she cared for. Before retiring from childcare, she was inspired to create Joy Sun Bear and his adventures so she could continue to help children be happier and learn more about the world. She has two kids of her own, both all grown up, and lives in Southern California with her husband.
John Lee: Co-Author/Illustrator
From driving tanks in the U.S. Army, to problem solving in the IT world, to writing and drawing cute and cuddly animals on magical adventures, John’s life has been fun and diverse.
Drawing and storytelling have always been important hobbies for John. Fueled by books, video games, and copious amounts of coffee, he is always excited to read, watch, or create some adventure-filled fiction.
John adores time with his wife and daughter, who provide a limitless supply of love, inspiration, and motivation. Together they live in sunny Southern California.