TRRC Presentation - Multicultural Children's Literature


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This is the talk I gave to the Tar River Reading Council of Pitt County, NC, about multicultural children's literature. The main idea is that all texts send messages, so as teachers we should be sure those messages are as inclusive as possible of our students and our world. Using Rudine Sims Bishop's definition of multicultural children's literature and her concept of how books can be both windows into the lives of others and mirrors to reflect back our own stories, I share information, recommendations, and arts-based instructional approaches with multicultural children's literature that teachers can use in their classrooms.

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  • So, even though we may have slightly different opinions about these, based on who we are and our own life experiences, we can clearly recognize a lot of these figures as being either good or bad. That’s because when we read we learn a lot more than just how to sound out words. Books and stories SEND MESSAGES. All of them, all the time. What we need to think about in terms of multicultural literature is what messages we want to send to our students with and through books and how multicultural literature can help us expand and question the messages that we otherwise receive about who counts or whose experiences are important – or who is “good” and who is “bad.”
  • Other terms include: Books that celebrate diversity Multiethnic literature International literature
  • Don't ignore these books if there are no children of color in your class; they are valuable for all children
  • Tableau instructions: Arts-Based Teaching Strategy – Living Pictures and Frozen Tableau: Tableau: a strategy in which students create a scene and freeze the action, then discuss what is happening and their reactions to it. Using physical poses, gestures, and facial expressions, students convey the characters, action, and significance of a historic moment.   Directions: Look through Morrison’s Remember… Notice your reactions. What pictures really strike you or speak to you?   Pick one or two to explore together in greater depth. Think about these kinds of questions: If you were the photographer, what title would you give this shot? Why? What's going on in this picture? Who are the people in this picture? What emotions do you think they are feeling? Choose one person in the photograph. What do you think he or she is thinking at this moment? If you were showing this photograph to other people, what message would you want them to come away with about this event? In your group, bring this picture to life. Stand in the place of the people in the photography. Look/move/arrange yourselves like them. Feel what this feels like. Freeze in that position.   Leave at least one person outside of the scene. After the group freezes, this person should talk about what s/he notices. This person can tap folks in the tableau to say what their character might be thinking/feeling/noticing in that moment.   Notice all the different positions from which you can watch the scene. Notice the different perspectives the various characters might have.   Unfreeze. Discuss the experience and/or repeat with another group or another photograph.
  • TRRC Presentation - Multicultural Children's Literature

    1. 1. Multicultural Children’s Literature Caitlin Ryan East Carolina University Tar River Reading Council April 14, 2011
    2. 2. Starting Off with a Game… <ul><li>Quickly, put the following terms into ONE of the boxes: </li></ul><ul><li>grandmother witch stepmother wolf </li></ul><ul><li>princess prince teenager frog </li></ul><ul><li>Goldilocks child troll </li></ul>GOOD BAD
    3. 3. Do These “Messages” Matter? <ul><li>YES. A LOT. </li></ul><ul><li>Consider this video: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>This experiment and others like it have been repeated many times with similar results… </li></ul><ul><li>So what messages HAVE we been sending? What could we be teaching instead? </li></ul>
    4. 4. The Roles of Multicultural Lit. <ul><li>WINDOWS </li></ul><ul><li>MIRRORS </li></ul>What are some things you’ve learned about other people through books? What parts of your own identity were/weren’t reflected back to you in books?
    5. 5. Definitions of Multicultural Lit. <ul><li>Texts that “reflect the racial, ethnic, and social diversity that is characteristic of our pluralistic society and of the world.” </li></ul><ul><li>- Rudine Sims Bishop (1997) </li></ul>Some Examples… Racial: African American Asian American Native American Hispanic/Latino/a Americans Ethnic: International communities Cultural minorities Social Diversity: Different abilities LGBT communities Elderly/Aged Religious communities Class/Poverty Immigration
    6. 6. Advantages of Multicultural Lit. <ul><li>Reading multicultural realistic fiction can increase student engagement in literacy activities (Tyson, 1999) </li></ul><ul><li>Multicultural literature is a catalyst for improved reading achievement among students who are culturally and linguistically diverse (Callins, 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>Children's books have the potential to support diversity in the curriculum and raise consciousness on cultural issues that have been historically ignored </li></ul><ul><li>Excellent opportunity to integrate social studies and language arts </li></ul><ul><li>Multicultural literature can help create classrooms where all students are valued </li></ul>
    7. 7. Choosing Quality Multicultural Lit. <ul><li>Use already-existing resources! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Award sites </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Coretta Scott King, Belpré, Rivera, etc. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Joyner library TRC bibliography lists </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Links provided in this presentation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Blogs of award-winning authors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Cynthia Leitich Smith, Debbie Reese, Jacqueline Woodson, and others… </li></ul></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Choosing Quality Multicultural Lit. <ul><li>Accuracy </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Are the portrayals accurate? Are they up-to-date? Are you sure?  </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Portrayal of Characters </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Unique, not stereotypes? Enriched and guided by their cultural backgrounds? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Language </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Free of demeaning, offensive words and images? Character language fit the place, social situation? </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Choosing Multicultural Lit. <ul><li>Perspective </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Is cultural diversity an asset? Are characters viewed as part of larger culture or as outsiders? Is it clear you don’t have to give up nonmainstream culture to be successful? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Illustrations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Are images culturally accurate? Are there a variety of physical features? Are cultural aspects specific, not just generic? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Overall Effect </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Does the book contribute to self-esteem of members of the culture portrayed? Can others learn from it? Does it allow multiple perspectives and avoid preaching? </li></ul></ul>
    10. 10. Key Considerations: Native American Literature <ul><li>Should reflect well-defined individual native nations, not generic “Indians” </li></ul><ul><li>Reflect today's Native American cultures, not just historical portrayals </li></ul><ul><li>Talk about the ways in which Native American cultures have influenced world culture </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid most books where all Indians are noble and all white people are bad </li></ul><ul><li>Joseph Bruchac, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Louise Erdrich, Michael Lacapa </li></ul>
    11. 11. Key Considerations: African American Literature <ul><li>Include the diversity of the African-American experience, across class, geography, dialect, color, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t ignore slavery or Jim Crow era, but include other portrayals too </li></ul><ul><li>Reject books with outdated images, offensive expressions, negative attitudes, or stereotypes </li></ul><ul><li>Eloise Greenfield, Floyd Cooper, Faith Ringgold, Jacqueline Woodson, Jerry/Gloria/Brian/Andrea Pinkney </li></ul>
    12. 12. Key Considerations: Asian American Literature <ul><li>Represent the range of Asian American cultures and histories </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Hmong, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Portray specific cultural elements </li></ul><ul><li>Incorporate historical events that students might not often learn about </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Japanese internment, Chinese Exclusion Act </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Yumi Heo, Cynthia Kadohata, Allen Say, An Na, Linda Sue Park, Janet Wong, Lisa Yee, Laurence Yep, and Yoshiko Uchida </li></ul>
    13. 13. Key Considerations: Mexican American Literature <ul><li>Look for good storytelling that avoids a patronizing &quot;poor them, they're working too hard&quot; tone </li></ul><ul><li>Select books that show Hispanic women in contemporary roles </li></ul><ul><li>Biographies demonstrate Latinos' contributions to the US and world </li></ul><ul><li>Accurate use of Spanish words and phrases provide realism and show respect for the culture </li></ul><ul><li>Carmen Lomas Garza, Alma Flor Ada, Gloria Anzaldúa, Francisco Jiménez </li></ul>
    14. 14. Teaching Multicultural Lit. <ul><li>Present books throughout the year, not just at specific times </li></ul><ul><li>Use multiple genres of books </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Realistic Fiction, Folk / Fairy Tales, Historical Fiction, Biography, Nonfiction </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Group them - with other books on the topic/genre and with other kinds of books </li></ul><ul><li>Ask a native speaker (student?) to help you pronounce words in other languages </li></ul>
    15. 15. Teaching Multicultural Lit. <ul><li>Allow students to respond to and extend stories in multiple ways </li></ul><ul><li>Use critical literacy; address power </li></ul><ul><li>Arts-Based Response </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Transmediation – moving from one mode or language art to another </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Multiple knowledge sources </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Makes interpretations visible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Students work together to construct meaning </li></ul></ul>
    16. 16. Experimenting with (Arts-Based) Response to Multicultural Lit. <ul><li>Let’s try some! </li></ul><ul><li>91 Ways to Respond to Books website </li></ul><ul><li>Different stations to choose from… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mapping Bigmama’s Farm </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Living Pictures and Frozen Tableau with Toni Morrison’s Remember </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Tableau: a strategy in which students create a scene and freeze the action, then discuss what is happening and their reactions to it. Using physical poses, gestures, and facial expressions, students convey the characters, action, and significance of a historic moment. </li></ul></ul></ul>
    17. 17. Wrapping Up… <ul><li>Multicultural literature… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>can be used to help children identify with their own culture, exposes children to other cultures, and opens the dialogue on issues regarding diversity (Colby & Lyon, 2004) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>offers children opportunities to celebrate who they are while learning about others </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Teachers will want to… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>remember the roles of windows AND mirrors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>use already-available resources to select appropriate texts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>never rely on just one book </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>continually reflect on messages they communicate through their curriculum </li></ul></ul>
    18. 18. Additional Web Resources <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Questions? Comments? Discussion? </li></ul><ul><li>Thank You! </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>