Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Diverse Perspectives in Children's Literature

What does diversity mean? “The ability to see other cultures and life experiences is important in developing children’s perspective, insight, and possibilities as they progress to becoming citizens of the world.” (Johnson, 2012, p. 305). By taking a look at multicultural literature, we examine more closely at the quality of cultural content. When students immerse themselves into multicultural literature, they become more motivated to read, and have a deeper understanding and appreciation for their own culture and the culture of others.
Critical Issues:
There are 3 categories of diverse perspectives inside multicultural literature; cultural diversity; African American, Latino/Latina Americans, Asian Americans and American Indians, religious diversity; American Indian Spirituality, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam and other diverse perspectives; Aging, Gender Equality, Exceptionalities, Language, Social Diversity and Family Structures.  When picking multicultural literature, it’s always important to evaluate and select a book that’s appropriate to the message you are trying to convey, especially avoiding any racism and sexism views you or your students may have. There are 8 steps on how to analyze children’s books for racism and sexism. These steps can be found on page 320-323 of “The Joy of Children’s Literature” book by Johnson.
Teaching Connections:
As teachers, one of our roles in literature is developing the literacy of our students. One way we can develop literacy is through the Principles of Critical Literacy. These principles focus on issues of power and promote reflection, transformation, and action, focus on problem and its complexity, has strategies that are dynamic and adapt to the contexts in which they are used and disrupts the commonplace by examining it from multiple perspectives. We can also connect multicultural literature across the curriculum in reading and language arts, social studies, science, and math by providing “examples of how critical thinking in a diverse society leads to a deeper understanding and knowledge of cultures, religions, or perspectives and, in turn, leads to reflective decision making. (Johnson, 2012, p. 331).
Literature Examples:
Taking Visual Impairment to School by Rita Whitman Steingold, 2004, Grades: 1-2/Picturebook 
Lisa, a young girl who is blind, tells her story of what it’s like to not see and even those with a visual impairment, like low vision. Since she’s blind, she’s learned how to use her other senses to live a normal life. She uses her sense of hearing at the movies, her sense of touch by reading Braille, and her sense of smell through flowers and her sense of taste through her meals. She’s learned how to walk with a cane, play the violin, and function on her own with the help of friends and family.

Meet Josefina: An American Girl by Valerie Tripp, 1997, Grades: 3-4
Meet Josefina is the story of Josefina Montoya and her family; Papa and her sisters, Anna, Francisca and Clara and their life on a rancho in New Mexico. After Mama passed away a year ago, life on the rancho has been difficult, but everyone is contributing to the chores at hand. One day, everyone anxiously anticipates the arrival of Abuelito. As he comes, he surprises everyone by bringing a guest, Tia Dolores, Mama’s sister. With their arrival, comes a fandango, a dance party, gifts, ideas and surprises. Even though life on the rancho has been difficult, but reminiscing on the good times with Mama and keep their spirits high, has made life a much more pleasant experience.

Everybody Cooks Rice By Norah Dooley, 1991, Grades 5-6 
While Mom was cooking dinner, Carrie, a young girl, was always asked to go search for her brother Anthony. While looking for Anthony, she entered many of her neighbors houses, families from Barbados, Puerto Rico, Vietnam, India, China, Haiti, and her own, Italian. She and her brother discovered that while everyone was from different places, everybody cooks rice.

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