Why Multicultural Literature?
The world is different today from when our parents and especially when our grandparents were growing up. Social media and the world wide web allows communication and education across countries and even continents. We celebrate each other's differences, whether it is culture, ethnicity, race, or religion. One of the most effective ways to teach children about the diversity of our world is by sharing a variety of multicultural literature. We teach our students to make connections to text; what better way to make a text to self connection than to read a story about a character who is just like ourselves and our friends. Engaging, educational, and multicultural titles are available for readers of all ages ranging from board books to chapter books. By using a variety of multicultural literature, we teach themes including tolerance, acceptance, and global awareness.
Finding and Using Multicultural Books
Children's titles by Ezra Jack Keats including The Snowy Day and Whistle for Willie are great examples of multicultural books in which the main character is an African-American boy. The New York Times recently printed a story about the lack of Latino characters in children's literature. I was intrigued by this story as I am always looking for great stories to match the diversity in my classroom; Abuela and Too Many Tamales are two selections that showcase Hispanic families. Amy's Travels is an example of multicultural literature that I wrote and have seen children from age four to ten intrigued by this true story. Based on a true story, this global awareness story teaches the culture and geography of our world through a young Latina girl. Amy's Travels, a recommended multicultural children's book by the California Department of Education, is the first children's picture book to teach all seven continents.
Our goal as writers of multicultural text is for the reader to learn about the culture and diversity about the people and places around the globe. How can parents decide which books will be great choices to share with their families? One reason to read multicultural stories is to learn about other religions, cultures, and countries; another reason is to find commonalities with children and families across the globe. A great idea is to select books that have characters that are around the same age or same gender as your children. Another suggestion is to choose a topic that is interesting or important to your family, such as food, a sport, or school. I remember my fourth and fifth graders expressing how difficult grammar and writing were for them, so I shared the book I Hate English, a great picture book that describes the journey of a Chinese girl moving to America and transitioning as the new student in school. While there are many resources and websites to help you find some titles that would most interest your children, one of the best places to start is at www.multiculturalkids.com; I know you will find some books that will open your child's eyes to the beauty of our earth.