Multicultural and Global Children's Literature as Agents of Change

Multicultural and Global Children's Literature as Agents of Change

Roberta Robinson (Hofstra University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9261-7.ch006
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Literature is the primary method used in elementary schools across the disciplines to teach children. Forms of media technology (computers and iPads) used in elementary schools at present are primarily supplementary. This chapter focuses on literature as an agent for change within two education approaches, multicultural and global education. The purposes of multicultural and global education and why literature is used as an approach to teaching are explained. Multicultural teacher education is discussed, but global teacher education is not, since not enough research could be found by this author at this time. Discussions of the uses, authenticity, and diversity issues of literature are included.
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Multicultural Education And Literature

The Civil Rights Movement gave birth to the idea of multicultural education. The goal was to change school curriculum to be more inclusive of marginalized groups in the United States. Multicultural education is meant to include the sociocultural needs and experiences of those who fall outside the mainstream. Multicultural literature is about “…persons or groups that differ in some way (for example, racially, linguistically, ethnically, culturally) from the dominate white American cultural group” (Cai & Bishop, 1994, pp. 57-58). It includes categories of race, gender, sexual orientation and disability. Multicultural literature, as a component of multicultural education, is meant to serve the goals of that movement.

Multicultural literature equips students with an understanding of issues that drive our society and how to be effective agents of change. It is not about holidays and heroes. The way teachers use multicultural literature can help children see value in both differences and similarities between and among people. More importantly, it can open the door to helping children understand social justice issues, become acquainted with multiple perspectives, and gain insight into their own cultures. “Multicultural literature helps children identify with their own culture, exposes children to other cultures, and opens the dialogue on issues regarding diversity” (Colby & Lyon, p. 24).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Multicultural Education: Teaching the histories, texts, values, beliefs, and perspectives of people from different cultural backgrounds within the United States, especially those whose voices have been silenced.

Multicultural Literature: Literature about the sociocultural experiences of those who fall outside the mainstream, including categories of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability in the United States.

UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, an agency of the United Nations.

Global Education: Global education is the term used internationally to describe a form of education that 1) enables people to understand the links between their own lives and those of people throughout the world; 2) increases understanding of the economic, cultural, political and environmental influences which shape our lives; 3) develops the skills, attitudes, and values which enable people to work together to bring about change and take control of their own lives; and 4) works towards achieving a more just and sustainable world in which power and resources are more equitably shared.

Global Literature: Literature about the lives of people and cultures outside the United States, written by people from those cultures, or people who have lived in those cultures or are/have been related to someone in the culture they are writing about. Global literature incorporates the shared values and beliefs of cultures.

Globalization: A process of interaction and integration among the people, companies, and governments of different nations; a process driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology.

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