Multicultural Education through Children's Books

Topics: Culture, Multiculturalism, United States Pages: 5 (1652 words) Published: September 27, 2013
Running head: USING CHILDREN'S BOOKS TO ENHANCE MULTICULTURAL

Using Children's Books to Enhance Multicultural Education

Using Children's Books to Enhance Multicultural Education
Within elementary school classrooms, students learn traditional subject matter related to math, reading, science, social studies, and writing according to curriculum standards. What is not written in the standards of learning is what students should know about different cultures and ethnicities. The United States is becoming more and more diverse each day. Our schools consist of students from countries all over the world. Students learn about differences whether or not there are multicultural lessons embedded into the curriculum. When teachers ignore the importance of teaching students about diversity, their students develop ideas and misconceptions on their own about because they are not exposed to materials that will help them understand different backgrounds. Children develop concepts about race and ethnicity at a young age. Teachers can help students build a better understanding of different cultures. One technique that can be used to celebrate diversity is the use of children’s literature. Children’s books are a great resource to use when studying various cultures. Research has shown that students who were exposed to multicultural literature at school “seemed to develop the most positive attitudes towards differences.” (Wan, 2006, p. 141) Reading and interacting with text are important parts of the curriculum throughout elementary school. Teachers can help students develop positive concepts about minority groups while making connections and analyzing characters. Teachers can use multicultural books to teach reading strategies or to teach specifically about a particular ethnic group. As one article says, “A useful tip for teachers whenever they have free time with students in pre-school through elementary grades is to start reading from a culturally authentic book and to ask analytic questions about the book as they read. Teachers will not only improve students’ reading abilities when they do this, they may also be creating an opportunity for a harmonious society in the future.” (Morgan, 2009b, p. 7) Though using children’s books is a valuable strategy for celebrating diversity, teachers must be aware of the misconceptions that are present in some children’s books. From reading these articles, I learned that many ethnic groups are represented inaccurately or are underrepresented in children’s books. For example, Native Americans are often represented in a stereotypic way. Many books emphasize only a few aspects of their culture, such as tipis, feathers, and totem poles, and they often mix aspects of different tribes together. Authentic books portray Native Americans participating in daily tasks during contemporary times. They also include accurate facts about each tribe. African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans are also misrepresented in several children’s books. A study shows that African Americans are often depicted as being unintelligent. In many children’s books, there is also a lack of interaction between African Americans and whites. (Morgan, 2009a) Hispanic Americans are underrepresented in children’s books. Since the Hispanic population is growing rapidly in America, teachers need to be aware of this oversight. Many times, Asian Americans are only shown in relation to marital arts or with pictures of chopsticks and fans. Teachers typically believe they are making good choice by selecting books that focus on a particular minority group. However, teachers must be highly conscious of the stereotypes that may be portrayed in children’s books. It can be challenging to find books that represent minority groups in a non-stereotypical way, but it is worth taking the time to find books that are beneficial to all students. One article says, “Good multicultural children’s books for students at [the...

References: Kim, B. S., Green, J. L., & Klein, E. F. (2006). Using Storybooks to Promote Multicultural Sensitivity in Elementary School Children. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 34, 223-234.
Morgan, H. (2009a). Gender, Racial, and Ethnic Misrepresentation in Children’s Books: A Comparative Look. Childhood Education, 85, 187-190.
Morgan, H. (2009b). Using Read-Alouds With Culturally Sensitive Children’s Books: A Strategy That Can Lead to Tolerance and Improved Reading Skills. Reading Improvement, 46, 3-8.
Wan, G. (2006). Teaching Diversity and Tolerance in the Classroom: A Thematic Storybook Approach. Education, 127, 140-154.
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