Quality Multicultural Literature
By Gabriella Bishop
Assessment-Based Reading Instruction
The Role of Quality Multicultural Literature
The United States is becoming an increasingly ethnic rich country. The traditional "majority" and "minority" populations are rapidly changing. As educators, we need to be sensitive to the needs of students who must be able to function emotionally and academically in our pluralistic society and recognize the need to expose students to instruction based on multicultural/diverse perspectives. American children need to develop a knowledge and worldview that appreciates the uniqueness and richness of their own culture and other cultures.
Appropriate content is one of the major elements of multicultural/diverse perspective instruction. Literature is a major carrier of content. It is a powerful tool for understanding the world. Young children find it easier to assimilate new information when this information is presented within the structure of a story than to learn it from a lecture or other method. I think there are several areas that important to think of when selecting books to promote an understanding of cultures while still teaching the actual lesson/standard to be learned. I feel that the literature selected must have cultural authenticity, improve self-concept, and promote a true understanding of a culture.
Cultural authenticity is important because there are so many stereotypes popular about different cultures. Research says it is important in multicultural education to frequently emphasize the importance of using literature to increase cultural awareness. The literature used should accurately portray the history, customs, values, and language of a particular cultural group. Through sharing carefully selected literature, students can learn to understand and to appreciate a literary heritage that comes from many diverse backgrounds. Students also benefit from reading literature that reflects their own ethnic and cultural background, which can make them proud of their background. Such literature can be an important tool in helping all students develop a healthy self-concept or one that is based on knowledge of and a sense of pride in family/ethnic background.
The use of multicultural literature can also extend students' knowledge about cultures by exposing them to the differences and similarities between their culture and other groups. These observations support the notion that incorporating multicultural literature into the curriculum can expand students' awareness and decrease negative stereotyping of individuals from other cultures Literature can present students with clear contrasts in perspectives and can help them to understand their own cultural heritages and those of others within and outside the classroom. However, it is also essential for developing multicultural/diverse perspective learning is a positive, trusting classroom environment or one in which all students are made to feel welcome, comfortable, and respected. I feel that there are certain strategies that best lend its support for a multi-cultural lesson. These strategies are listed below with a brief description of each. •
Questioning styles: Questioning techniques that personally involve students will allow them to respond in a way that reflects their cultural diversity and that will expose their fellow students to those differences. In other words, help the child walk in the shoes of the individual by finding a way to bring the questioning to the child in a purposeful, meaningful way. •
Role-playing: Role-playing is a versatile activity that allows students to express their opinions in a realistic situation. Students can "trade places" with a character from a literature selection. Role-playing enables students to express and to examine their attitudes, beliefs, and feelings. Poetry, biography, and powerful fiction are excellent sources...
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