Sunday, April 27, 2008

Children's Literature, Briefly. Chapter 15: Mulitcultural and International Books

Upon reading this chapter(and every other chapter in the book) I am compelled to say that I am so impressed with the text for this course. Tunnell and Jacobs have left nothing out; they have created a complete guide to children's literature for teachers!

This chapter discussing the importance of multicultural and international books was great. When I worked at the Child Development Lab here at Tech they emphasized multiculturalism through their wall decorations, language, and book collection. The children at the CDRC weren't afraid to bring up questions about differences because their questions were embraced and answered. Its when children learn from adult behavior that some things aren't to be talked about that they are confused and develop fear from uncertainty.

I will never forget the time my younger brother who was about four at the time questioned a cashier about the color of her skin. He had been looking at her while she was scanning our items and then said to her, "you black". Of course my mother and I apologized to the lady and "shhh-ed" him embarrassed that he had made such an obvious comment. But the lady replied that it was fine and proceeded to tell him that her skin color was very dark compared to his. She even showed him how the palms of her hands were different than his. Once she had confirmed that his conclusion about her being "black" was right he went on doing his own thing. Unlike my mother and I who tried to quiet him and suppress his insight for fear of offending the woman, she simply showed him in a very matter-of-fact way. He learned that people are different colors because she addressed his statement. If she hadn't done that he would have learned from our behavior to ignore differences and been fearful of acknowledging diversity. What I learned that day was it is better to embrace a child's curiousity about diversity and human differences in a postitive matter-of-fact way than it is to ignore them.

It is so important to represent all forms of diversity in your classroom in a subtle yet consistent way. To ignore differences between people will only encourage phobic and eventually hateful attitudes. By including multicultural and international books in your classroom collection you will be fostering awareness and acceptance of others; an indispensable lesson for children.

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