Facts In Action
Multicultural Picture Books
you ever opened the door to an unfamiliar culture or lifestyle through
the pages of a book? Picture books that depict a variety of ethnic,
racial, and cultural groups help young children develop an understanding
of others and learn about diverse backgrounds. Multicultural children's
literature can serve as a mirror for children into their own lives
and as a window through which to learn about other's lives. Unfortunately,
according to a recent article on the possibilities and pitfalls of
multicultural picture books, too often picture books offer a distorted
picture of multiculturalism in the United States.
issues have been raised about the accuracy and authenticity of multicultural
picture books. One concern is that teachers and providers may assume
a book is multicultural if it has non-European American characters
or themes, but it may in fact misrepresent cultural groups and use
common stereotypes. In addition, a single book about a cultural
group may not adequately portray a group's experience. In reality,
the perspective of an individual author affects the view he or she
presents of a culture.
and providers must take the time to evaluate and choose high-quality
picture books so that children can learn correct and useful information
from the books to which they are exposed. The article's authors
present several recommendations to help teachers and providers better
evaluate and utilize children's picture books with good multicultural
for teachers and providers should include opportunities to discuss
their own and differing perspectives about racial and ethnic identity
and how racial and ethnic groups are depicted in multicultural
literature. This should include the development of a better understanding
of the cultural groups in U.S society, and of the stereotypes
and assumptions associated with these groups.
assessing books for multiculturalism, teachers and providers must
ask questions such as: Are characters outside the "mainstream"
culture depicted as individuals or as caricatures? Does their
representation include significant cultural information? Who has
the power and wisdom in the story, and how do they use it? How
is language used to create images of people in particular population
groups? Is the author a member of the groups he/she is representing?
children look at picture books, they are exposed to particular views
about individuals and groups of people, including messages about
what other people and other cultures are like. Following through
on these recommendations can lead to a more beneficial use of multicultural
picture books as part of the early childhood curriculum.
"Examining Multicultural Picture Books for the Early Childhood
Classroom: Possibilities and Pitfalls", J. Mendoza and D. Reese,
Early Childhood Research and Practice, Fall 2001.
contact Jean Mendoza, College of Education University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign, 1310 S. Sixth Street, Champaign, IL 61820,
or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or online at ecrp.uiuc.edu/v3n2/mendoza.html.
Facts in Action, June 2002
|Goodbye from the printed version of Facts in Action.