These are suggestions for some last-minute children’s presents for the holidays. These book suggestions could also be great resources for dance teachers for the New Year. They combine dance with a variety of cultural and life skills themes.
Book are an amazing resource in the dance classroom. They can be used to provide thought starters for choreography and dance discussions. You could also use them to structure larger thematic dances or to show children other people’s ideas about how we express emotions. I often use books to stimulate ideas for teaching dance skills.
These book suggestions are mainly for early readers and are based around different genres of dance. They are wonderful for children to read about dance and can provide stimulus for in-class dance activities.
# 1 Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy
This wonderful book by American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland, shares the biographies of 27 dancers of colour. More than just a Wikipedia post, she makes personal links to each of the artists, sharing connections and stories.
Misty Copeland also offers insights into her life and career through these stories. These are enhanced by the stunning illustrations of each of the dancers. The stories introduce young readers to these trailblazing artists legacy.
Suitable for readers 10 and above but also enjoyable for older age groups.
# 2 My Dancing Feet
I love this Diane Koebel-Pede book for younger readers as it is so relatable for students who are learning dance in studio and school settings. It describes the dance learning leading up to performance.
The rhyming text is useful for movement activities as is the descriptions different dance styles. There are details about moving in ballet, jazz, hip hop and tap, all described in a most playful way.
There are journal pages at the end of the book to write your personal dance experiences. This makes it particularly appropriate for students up to Year 2 or 3.
# 3 The Cat with the Crooked Tail
There is so much to love about this book, not the least of all being that there are suggestions for dance movements included. This is the fifth book in the series created by Once Upon a Dance that enables reader to create their own movements or follow along with the movement suggestions by Ballerina Konora.
It beautifully illustrated story is about a self-conscious cat that, through persistence and self-acceptance, learns to work through failure. With themes around friendship and loving who you are, this is a great for ages 5 – 7. Definitely one for the school library!
# 4 The Story of Rita Moreno: Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer
Written by Anika Aldamuy Denise and illustrated by Leo Espinosa, this is the true story of the amazing Rita Moreno, winner of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards. This story is not only about her stella career on stage and screen but her struggle through her early life.
The book describes the journey from Puerto Rico to the mainland U.S., Rita’s hardship assimilating, learning English and early training as a performer. It is an insight into the resilience and determination needed to be an award-winning performer.
The vibrant illustrations are really a feature of this book and help to portray the real character of Rita Moreno. The book is also available in a Spanish-language edition.
This well researched book includes a timeline, bibliography and author’s notes making it suitable for all Primary/Elementary students.
# 5 I Will Dance
Based on Young Dance a physically integrated dance program in Minnesota, this book portrays the story of Eva, a young girl born with cerebral palsy and her dream of becoming a dancer. With beautiful illustrations by Julianna Swaney, the poetic writing of Nancy Bo Flood, the story is uplifting.
In the beginning of the story Eva longs to dance but doesn’t know what dance for someone who uses a wheelchair may look like. We see how with the encouragement of her teachers, and her own determination how Eva fulfills her dreams of becoming a dancer.
This book, written by an educator who has developed programs for students with disabilities, is great for stimulating a dance discussion in class about what dance is, how we dance, and who dances.
# 6 Stomp, Wiggle, Clap and Tap: My First Book of Dance
This is a book to move to! Author, Rachelle Burk, uses the words like dance rhythms and will definitely get your toddlers up and going.
It’s all about imagination (flapping chickens and prancing ponies), but at the same time encourages body isolation of hands hips fingers and toes. There is an exploration of dynamics throughout that explore movement and motor skills. It also includes gentle stretching.
Alyssa De Asis’s illustrations give you great ideas to move. This is a great present for children and can be shared by parents, grandparents, and teachers.
# 7 John’s Turn
In this story by Kate Berube, John is a young ballet dancer who decides to share his talent for dance at a school performance. This is a short and simple gender positive story that looks at how classmates can be encouraging.
The book is filled with movement and joy. It really demonstrates how great it feels to be ‘lost’ in movement and the uplifting transformative nature of dance.
The responses from the class may be a little idealistic, but it does raise conversations that are important at home and in the classroom. These are important conversations for children starting school and can reinforce ideas around overcoming nerves and celebrating each other’s individual talents.
# 8 Jingle Dancer
Written by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, the book tells us about a Native American girl, Jenna, and her quest to dance at the next powwow. Her grandmother doesn’t think there is enough time to get her rolling jingles for her costume.
Jenna is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and is also of Ojibway (Chippewa/Anishinabe) descent. She lives in a contemporary intertribal community and family in Oklahoma.”
This book shows the importance of dance in people’s culture and the intergenerational nature of passing on dance knowledge. It also demonstrates the interconnectedness of dance and singing.
This book could be used as a part of a cultural dance unit in upper Primary/Elementary school with a focus on observing the details and knowledge of cultural dance.
# 9 Lion Dancer: Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year
This book also covers the detailed preparation involved in performing cultural dance. Kate Waters tells the story of Ernie Wan and his first Lion Dance performance.
Once again, we see how this dance knowledge is passed on through generations as his father, a Kung Fu teacher, trains Ernie and his siblings in the intricacies of the Lion Dance.
I love how this story shows the traditions associated with Chinese New Year including new clothing, feasts, and red envelopes. But I particularly love how it privileges the skills required to perform the Lion dance.
This is a picture book but would be suitable for ages 4 and above.
Giving dance books for Christmas
I hope these ideas will help you find those last-minute gifts for young children this Christmas that are educational and fun. Have a wonderful holiday and keep dancing!