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Tracy Howse

Children’s Literature
7/2/2018

Final Reflection

In an increasingly global world, it is important to give students an entry way into the lives

of others. Students need to have cultural understanding alongside increased empathy regarding

the types of peoples, habits, and cultures they might encounter. Children’s literature can give

students these opportunities and present them with stories about individuals to whom they are

similar and different. An effective way of showing this material is through text sets, since no

single text represents multicultural literature. In presenting this literature to students, we must

show a wide variety of global literature and culturally diverse resources.

Kathy G. Short states that Global literature can be defined as “any book set in a global

context outside of the reader’s own location” (47). International literature is a subset of this genre

which includes books “written and published in another country for the children of that country”

(47). This portion of multicultural literature looks at geographic and physical borders between

sets of people. However, Mingshui Cai states that there are two additional types of borders: a

“difference border” marked by differences such as “beliefs, values, experiences, history, and

tradition” and a “mental border” which includes “fear, bias, or prejudice” (118). When

combining these, we have a better understanding of multicultural literature: literature that

presents globally and culturally diverse literature, giving students the ability to better understand

their culture and the culture of others.

Including multicultural literature within a school’s library media center is imperative for

all students. Many educators look at texts as windows and mirrors that let students see

themselves in literature or to see the experiences of others. Author Grace Lin takes this a step
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further, explaining that books are not either “mirrors or windows,” but rather glass that shows

you other worlds and reflects your image simultaneously. Some students may live in families and

communities in which they see minimal diversity but may have many universal experiences to

which others could relate. When selecting literature for school libraries, we should be looking for

texts which gives students an opportunity to understand individual and shared experiences across

cultures.

One major consideration for multiculturalism in texts lies in the question of authenticity.

It is important to analyze who wrote the text and whether or not it is their story to tell. Cultural

competency and understanding is imperative, and details matter for multicultural literature.

Leland, Lewison, and Hanste state the importance of details in texts such as “authentic dialogue

and relationships” (64). This is crucial for showing students how this specific culture functions,

giving them an in depth “understandings of intricate global concerns” (66). Authentic

multicultural texts give ownership to individuals within the culture and present deeper context of

a society.

Furthering authenticity, I intend to teach my students the importance of telling their own

story. As educators, we must empower kids to tell their own story and teach them empathy for

listening to other people’s stories. They should not be speaking for others. If we give them texts

of majority cultures attempting to tell minority culture stories, we are giving them permission to

speak for others. Instead, I want my future students to realize the importance of telling their

individual story while also allowing for others to contribute to the conversation.

Presentation of authentic material through a variety of viewpoints is crucial for

multicultural text sets. Within communities and cultures, there are deep-rooted norms that

motivate interaction between individuals. These can often be influenced by a person’s age,
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gender, or social status. Choosing multiple authentic books written from the exact same

viewpoint still limits a reader’s understanding of a culture. I would also look at texts which give

insight into multiple viewpoints, such as When My Name was Keoko and The Breadwinner. The

first was narrated by both a young girl and a young boy, showing their involvement in society

and responsibilities. In The Breadwinner, the main character had to dress up as a boy and

therefore was able to express further understanding of the lives of young men within her culture.

Utilizing these books gives students the ability to see cultural norms immediately.

Another necessity for selecting multicultural literature is the inclusion of violence. This

can be defined as the physical, verbal, psychological violence students see or experience, be it in

their lives or through the media (Persiani-Becker, 128). This does not mean including texts with

violence for violence’s sake, but rather that students need to understand the realities in our world.

An example of this is Ntozake Shange’s picture book Whitewash. This shows how we can

discuss stressful topics such as gang violence and hate crimes within a classroom. Although it

could be tempting to reduce students’ interaction with violence, it is impossible to shield students

from these realities. It would be a disservice to students who do not experience violence;

understanding the realities of the world promotes empathy towards others. It would also make

those experiencing these realities feel left out of our larger narrative. In my school library, I will

work to give students a safe space for learning about other individuals or to work through their

interactions with difficult situations in their lives.

The main concept I will use for implementing multicultural literature will be text sets

focused on authentic material from a variety of viewpoints. This authenticity would highlight the

authorship and realities of our communities, as mentioned above. I will also use innovative

techniques that allow students to begin analyzing multicultural literature, including activities for
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analyzing individuals. These techniques will let them see what makes authentic multicultural

literature, allowing them to make more informed decisions in the future.

If students can analyze characters within a particular setting, they will have increased

opportunity to connect with that character through similarities and differences. The color and

shape activity we did in class gave us a chance to decide what one color and shape represents an

individual. Although we were looking at a person within their culture and society, this promotes

evaluating how that person acts and reacts. Extracting them, momentarily, from their large

setting and giving us a chance to see them as people. In that instance, we are able to identify with

the basic foundations of the person: brave, heroic, naive, etc. Similarly, the mirror and windows

activity had us write the things we can and cannot directly relate to within the story. Through

these two, we picked apart a story for a deeper understanding and connection. Having students

do this shows that there is no story “about” one thing. They will be able to look at multicultural

literature to see how they can connect to another person.

On a more personal level, I feel invigorated by the selection of children’s literature and

picture books we have read. I explained in class that often, as a child, I felt every book ended

with a happily ever after: the impoverished child’s family bought him a bike, the young girl

encountered a miracle, someone got to rectify all their mistakes. However, these books have a

richer presentation of reality. Although they could seem “sadder,” I think they give students to

think critically about their world and what occurs for other students, communities, and cultures.

The empathy we can teach with such books outweighs the possibility of difficult conversations.

I also personally feel that the library media center is a wonderful place to start having

these conversations. I want students to feel that they can come to this center for researching and

seeking truth. In that regard, I feel that topics related to their global world are equally important
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topics related to their studies. We cannot extract education from the broader world, especially if

we want to promote life-long learners with empathy and understanding.


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References

Cai, M. (2002). Multicultural literature for children and young adults. Westpoint, CT:

Greenwood Press.

Leland, Lewison, and Hanste (2013). Teaching children’s literature: It’s critical. New York,

NY: Routledge.

Persiani-Beker, K (2011). Multicultural children’s literature. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Short, K. G. (2017). Reading outside our comfort zone: The dangers and possibilities of reading

globally. The Dragon Lode, 35(2), 46-50. Retrieved from

https://blackboard.towson.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-4621124-dt-content-rid-

30398087_2/courses/1183-01203-01210-020/Short_RdgOutsideComfort.pdf

TEDx Talks (2016). The windows and mirrors of your child’s bookshelf: Grace Lin. Retrieved

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wQ8wiV3FVo