Developing Equity Literacy through Diverse Literature for Children and Young Adults

Developing Equity Literacy through Diverse Literature for Children and Young Adults

Suzanne Fondrie (University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, USA), Marguerite Penick-Parks (University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, USA) and Omobolade Delano-Oriaran (St. Norbert College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0897-7.ch010
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This chapter highlights the application of the equity literacy framework as a curricular approach to infusing diverse and multiple perspectives in PK-12 school curriculum, and presents a rationale for developing equity literacy in PK-12 students. It provides texts and related teaching ideas appropriate for supporting that development. Gorski's (2014b) equity literacy framework is the basis for the rationale and the text selection. The chapter organizes suggested texts into seven strands: race, social class, culture, global perspectives, power and privilege, gender/sexuality, and intersectionality. The final section presents excellent multicultural literature for each of the strands across grade levels.
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In the world of PK-12 education, the terminology used to talk “nicely” about issues of diversity takes the form of multicultural education, culturally relevant pedagogy, culturally responsive pedagogy, or working with diverse children. Each of these ideas is grounded in the same belief: that all students deserve a fair quality education and that schools should put in place the necessary curriculum materials and professional development for this to occur.

Historically, the National Association for Multicultural Education has been in existence since 1960; The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children, by Gloria Ladson-Billings, became a mainstay of teacher education programs in 1994; and Geneva Gay’s landmark work, Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice, was published in 2000. However, during this same time, the opportunity gap for African American and Latino/a students has increased, not decreased, as would be anticipated by the supposed implementation of curricular approaches that focus on and meet the needs of students of color (i.e. multicultural education, culturally relevant pedagogy). According to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (U.S. Department of Education, 2015), African American 8th graders on average are 32 points behind white students in math and 26 points behind in reading.

If curricular approaches to meeting the needs of students of color successfully in PK-12 schools over the past 25 years have resulted in minimal success, it is possible there is a need to modify current approaches. To expand these approaches, this chapter presents a rationale and multiple strategies for developing equity literacy (Gorski, 2014b) in teacher education and PK-12 schools through the inclusion of literature for children and young adults that enhances teachers’ opportunities to promote social justice in their classrooms.

Using the equity literacy framework outlined by Gorski and Swalwell (2015), this chapter is designed to support teacher educators, teachers, and librarians by offering award-winning and culturally accurate and authentic books for children and young adults, with which they can work with students to identify, respond to, and mitigate the effects of bias and inequity, thereby supporting equity literacy development. In addition to the books, the chapter includes pedagogic approaches and strategies, to accompany the use of these texts in teacher education and PK-12 classrooms, extending the texts’ impact beyond a limited reading. We also discuss issues educators must consider when working with sensitive topics.

The chapter focuses on seven topic strands that run through the books selected to promote equity literacy: race, social class, culture, global perspectives, power and privilege, gender/sexuality, and intersectionality. Although we do not include dis/ability in this chapter because of its complexity and intersectionality with the other strands, we recognize its critical importance.

We selected highlighted texts after careful consideration of their excellence in writing and illustration, award-winning status or appearance on lists of distinction, accurate and authentic depiction of culture, and potential to develop equity literacy skills. We also selected texts that explore intersectionality in order to further students’ understanding of and appreciation for how multiple demographic categories impact characters. Finally, our associated activities include best-practice and Common Core related approaches such as active engagement, critical analysis, close reading, text annotation, and community engagement.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Equity Literacy: The skills and dispositions that empower, support, and position individuals to recognize, respond to, and redress conditions that deny some students access to quality educational opportunities received and enjoyed by their peers, and in doing so, resultantly sustains equitable learning environments for all students and their families (Gorski, 2014 AU44: The citation "Gorski, 2014" matches multiple references. Please add letters (e.g. "Smith 2000a"), or additional authors to the citation, to uniquely match references and citations. ).

Diversity: Within the context of this chapter, it reflects various races, ethnicities, sexual orientation, socio-economic groups, genders, languages, ages, family units, religions, and ages.

Social Class: Commonly refers to a group of people who have a distinct economic status according to government guidelines, but can also refer to hierarchical structures determined by education level, type of job, etc.

Multicultural Children’s and Young Adult Literature: Refers to trade books appropriate for children in grades PK-12 that focus on multicultural issues: race, culture, social class, gender and sexuality, language, etc.

LGBT: An acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. In recent years, many scholars are adding “QIAA 2S” to the acronym, and are using LGBTQIAA 2S to reflect L: lesbian for females who are sexually attracted to females; G: used to reflect homosexual males, but lesbians have also know to identify as gay; B: an individual who is romantically or sexually attracted to females and males; T: connotes someone whose current gender identity is different from their birth one; Q: stands for questioning/queer, and in past years was considered offensive, but in recent years is seen as an inclusive terminology to reflect the entire group ;I: Intersex is individuals with two types of genitalia or chromosomes; A: Asexual means one does not identify with any sexual orientation; A: Ally is a supporter and advocate; 2S: 2 spirits to reflect people that have two spirits with Native Americans/First Nations (KW Counseling Service, 2016 AU45: The in-text citation "KW Counseling Service, 2016" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ; North Dakota State University, 2012 ).

Teaching Strategies: Activities and approaches used by educators in PK-16 classrooms that target specific objectives.

Power and Privilege: Includes the ways that peoples and groups are advantaged or disadvantaged by their position in systemic structures, as well as the way those peoples and groups acknowledge or are ignorant of their position.

Race: A contested term, it generally refers to established categories of people used in governmental structures that define people by skin color or by geographic region of origin.

Intersectionality: A critical theoretical approach to examining how the intersections of social and cultural status, including, race, ethnicity, social class, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion result in varied, and “different” experiences for individuals.

Global: Connotes international and world perspectives. This gives students the learning opportunities to be exposed to countries other than their country of origin, birth or residency.

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