The concept of "multicultural literature" can present challenges to mothers and fathers who want to raise well-rounded children prepared to function in the 2008 global village. How does a well-intentioned parent find and select good books for his/her children? What kinds of stories affirm that child's place on the planet? Folk tales? Fairy Tales? Nonfiction? Biography? What kinds of picture books prepare children for the complex world in which they live? What kinds of stories open a window of possibilities for that child's future? What kinds of books help children to dream of a better world for all peoples? Can books help us to make new friends and know our current neighbors? Must other races and creeds be represented for a book to be truly multicultural? What specific titles should form the core of a child's personal library?
Publishers, librarians, booksellers, educators, and parents (in particular) of all philosophies, budgets and ethnicities play important roles in this conversation. Since books provide a conduit of exposure to people, places and worlds both similar and different from our own, it makes sense to expose our children to books that embrace a diversity of cultures, interests, values, nationalities, and hues, right?
When I was a child growing up in segregated schools in Virginia, none of my school books contained "colored children" who looked or acted like me. The main public library in our town was not open to "Negroes" as we referred to ourselves at that time, and all of the "good" books--meaning new ones--were there. The "colored" library was a tiny cramped space that contained mostly used and discarded books. Why then would any child want to read them?
When I became a parent I was determined that my children have a collection of wonderful books. And yes, like many parents I believe that seeing and experiencing diversity in children's literature is a good thing. But how can a parent know what is good? What is fair? What is authentic? What is stereotypical? What is to be avoided?
This space is dedicated to exploring how children's literature can inform our world--how effective presentation of the written word and visual images can help us as parents to guide our children toward empowerment and discovery of their inner selves and their ultimate possibilities. This space is dedicated to exploring diversity in children's literature and to finding ways to get good books in the hands of children for their information and their joy.
Why is multicultural literature important? Here's my top ten list:
1. Multicultural literature confirms that we live in a global village and that the world is pluralistic and made up of many different kinds of people.
2. It helps to develop self esteem in all children through inclusion rather than exclusion.
3. It provides knowledge and information about people from all parts of the world.
4. It can change the way students look at their own particular society and the world by offering varying perspectives or different ways of viewing the same situations.
5. It can promote/develop an appreciation for diversity.
6. It can help children think critically and to ask questions.
7. Like all literature, it can provide enjoyment and appreciation for unity and variety in the human experience.
8. It can reflect the cultural diversity within the classroom and community
9. It can provide positive role models.
10. It can create a bridge between student's real-life experiences and intellectual learning.
Why is multicultural literature important to you and the children in your life? We welcome your thoughts. And be sure to check future posts for book recommendations, tips on how to encourage the children in your life to read, and suggestions on what to look for when selecting multicultural literature.