Posted October 13, 2016 – AWE Learning Staff
Our world is composed of a highly diverse population that includes different nationalities, sexual orientations, cultures, races, and ethnicities. As a collective group, our perceptions of reality and even our literacy skills develop from the environment to which we are exposed, and the experiences that we have. As young learners mature, they are exposed to a considerable amount of literature.
Early on, children develop their perspective on life through their interactions with these texts, through the words and through any illustrations provided. A vital element to early literacy for young learners is an exposure to multicultural literature. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center, from the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, defines multicultural literature as books by and about people of color and First/Native Nations individuals.
Multicultural literature for young learners serves a dual role. First, it provides the opportunity for children to relate to the characters and situations presented. Additionally, it provides a glimpse of the diverse world we live in. Multicultural literature helps young learners understand the differences that exist, while simultaneously developing an awareness of our many commonalities, such as feelings, aspirations and more.
As explained in an archived analysis from the Internet Public Library, stories about other cultures provide young learners with an opportunity to explore a world beyond their own experiences. They also help children gain an understanding of those who are different than them. This offers children a chance to discover the many similarities they share with other cultures.
According to KidSource OnLine, there are specific guidelines to consider when selecting multicultural literature for young learners. These include, but are not limited to, literature with positive portrayal of characters (this helps to avoid stereotyping particular cultural groups), texts with historical accuracy, and reflections of the characters’ cultural values. The inclusion of authentic illustrations also helps to enhance the quality of the text, as illustrations often have a lasting impact.
As you select literature for your young learner, look for that which not only provides an opportunity for children see themselves in the story, but also an opportunity to learn about the diverse environment in which they live. Scholastic provides helpful suggestions to help you select some of the best multicultural books to expand the literacy of your young learners!