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 season 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 wrought 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 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 tips, 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, AAA) 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 inefficacy to all students. One article says, “Good multicultural children’s books for students at [the elementary age level] show people of different cultural backgrounds in more prestigious positions such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, or bankers rather than in a stereotypical way.Other authentic books for students at this level teach that although people are different in the way they appear, these differences are a good thing and should be celebrated..
.. It is important to have a balance between books describing a group in a historical setting and those that portray modern day life. ” (Morgan, Bibb, p.
-6) I also learned several strategies for integrating children’s literature into my lessons. One way is to use a thematic approach.Studying literature allows students to see that people of different backgrounds are more similar to them than they may have thought. Teachers may select a theme, then collect several books from different cultures to analyze or compare and contrast. This gives students to see that there are differences among cultures, but there are also many similarities, especially in the way people think, feel, and react to situations. When planning thematic units to teach multicultural lessons, searchers should begin with an introductory activity to pique students’ interest.Such activities may include having students share experiences of family celebrations, sharing food from other countries, or learning about cultural holiday celebrations.
Students should read several books, either independently, in small groups, or as a whole class. Afterwards, the teacher can discuss various topics and help students better understand the cultures that they read about. Students will be able to handle difficult subjects, such as discrimination, prejudice, and slavery more easily when there is a teacher there to facilitate the discussion.
Morgan, Bibb) This topic is important to me because as an elementary school teacher, I think it’s imperative to begin to develop ideas about groups of people when they are young and teachers should help shape those ideas into accurate portrayals. It becomes more difficult to break down stereotypes and misconceptions as students get older, so we should work hard to prevent those stereotypes from forming while students are younger. All students should have the opportunity to go to school where they feel comfortable and accepted.
Teachers should promote an environment in which their students feel equal and won’t have to worry about being treated poorly by their classmates. My classroom is diverse. I have students whose families migrated from Mexico, Greece, Australia, Turkey, Peru, Venezuela, Ukraine, and Nigeria. I enjoy learning about each of my students’ family traditions and cultural differences.
During the first few weeks of school, students put together a heritage portfolio, which includes interviews with family members, research about their family native country, and facts about their family culture.In the future, I would like to use children’s literature to further enhance our study of different ethnic groups. I will include books about the ethnic groups that are represented in my class, as well as well as groups that are not. One of the articles states, “Many schools develop ‘diversity days’ or similar forums for formally addressing cultural differences in their communities. Storybooks can be integrated into these types of school activities, both as a forum for discussing multicultural issues during the events and also as opportunities for teachers to informally follow up with their students after the events have ended. (Kim, Green, & Klein, 2006, p. 227) Using children’s books to explore different cultures is a great way or students to make connections and create more positive ideas about people who are different from them. Throughout the articles, the focus is on cultural and ethnic diversity.
Three out of the four articles make little to no mention of differences among gender or socioeconomic class, except when it applies to a cultural stereotype. One article says that children’s books often portray females as submissive and dependent, and that males represent most of the characters. Morgan, AAA) It makes me wonder whether or not children’s ideas of gender roles could be impacted through books as much as cultural differences. It is Just as important to address gender stereotypes as it is to address cultural stereotypes. Gender roles are instilled in children at a very young age and, although it may be harder to do, teachers should incorporate lessons that focus on gender equality in order to promote self-esteem in all students.
Producing a multicultural classroom is a difficult task for a teacher.However, the effort it takes to accomplish the task is worth it to make all children aware of differences among each other. Diversity should be addressed in all schools, not Just ones with high populations of minority students. Culturally authentic children’s books are important to all students. Mainstream students benefit equally from these books because they teach tolerance toward people in different cultures; this is critical in any society, especially those that are steadily becoming more diverse.
” (Morgan, AAA, p. 90) Because the United States continues to become more diverse, it’s beneficial for all students to be exposed to materials that help them gain some insight into other cultures. Research shows that children who have positive perceptions of people of different races have a better social awareness: Fifth-grade girls with increased multicultural sensitivity, as demonstrated by their their same-age peers with no or low-quality interracial friendships…. Children who are able to establish interracial friendships demonstrate higher levels of psychosocial maturity.
(Kim et al. , 2006, p. 224) Our students need to be able to function well in a diverse society and they need to be able to interact with people who are different than them. The first step in helping to lead them in that direction is selecting classroom materials, including authentic children’s books, which positively depict several cultural groups.
References Kim, B. S. , Green, J.
L. , & Klein, E. F. (2006). Using Storybooks to Promote Multicultural Sensitivity in Elementary School Children.