PART 1: The need for multicultural literature in the classroom…
There is a definite need for multicultural literature in the classroom. Good literature can help reflect many aspects of a culture--its values, beliefs, ways of life, and patterns of thinking. Good literature can also help readers to learn about an individual or a group of people whose stories take place in a specific historical and physical setting. In addition, exposure to quality multicultural literature also helps children appreciate the differences of other ethnic groups, eliminate the idea that one cultural group is better than another, and develop multiple perspectives. Young people will learn that beneath surface differences of color, culture or ethnicity, all people experience universal feelings of love, sadness, self-worth, justice and kindness.
The article entitled “Creating New Social Identities in Children Through Critical Multicultural Media: The Case of Little Bill” explores how the civil right movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s brought about a closer examination school curriculum and the understanding that there was a need for multicultural education. The idea that children needed to be protected from learning about real life situations and the difficult issues of living in poverty and growing up in inner cities did not help children who were actually dealing with these issues. This article focused on the development of a “critical social consciousness” in which these difficult issues are discussed and dealt with and educational materials are specifically developed to “awaken ethnic, racial, and gender awareness in children at an earlier age” (p. 19). “Creating New Social Identities in Children Through Critical Multicultural Media: The Case of Little Bill” then went on to explain some theorists ideas behind why they believe multicultural literature is essential for children to be exposed to in early childhood. A case study about implementing critical multiculturalism is children’s television was conducted to explore an episode of the Little Bill series written by Bill Cosby. Each show addresses different stigmatized topics. It addresses these issues by throwing light on the topic with a positive solution to a problem which helps to set straight many of the negative issues of social identities often given to people of color specifically, African Americans.
The United States has been a multicultural society since it was founded, and ethnic minorities have contributed significantly to its development. Their contribution should be appreciated, regarded as an integral part of American culture, and authentically represented by the literature collections found in our school libraries and classrooms. Multicultural literature opens a window through which readers may explore the richness of diversity in the American society. Understanding this, the article “Questioning Your Collection” is important because it helps the educator to determine what books in their collection of books may or may not be good examples of multiculturalism in children’s literature. The author explains that multicultural books can be both “mirrors and windows – mirrors that let readers see reflections of their own lives; windows that let them see others’ lives” (p. 63). It is important for the educator to review each book they may be suggesting that a student should read. The Council on Interracial Books for Children (CIBC) provides a concise evaluation tool entitled “10 Quick Ways to Analyze Children’s Books for Racism and Sexism”. Some of the things suggested for reviewing a book is for the educator to really explore the reading by looking at illustrations, understanding the storyline, considering the child’s self-image, and understanding the author’s perspective, to name a few things. A strong multicultural program should reflect contemporary life, not just tales of long ago and far away....
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