Using International Literature to Enhance the Curriculum

By Clark, Ruth Cox; White, Maureen et al. | Teacher Librarian, June 2004 | Go to article overview

Using International Literature to Enhance the Curriculum


Clark, Ruth Cox, White, Maureen, Bluemel, Nancy, Teacher Librarian


IN THE LAST DECADE A GREAT DEAL OF EMPHASIS HAS BEEN PLACED ON INTEGRATING MULTICULTURAL LITERATURE INTO THE PREK-12 CURRICULUM. DUE TO THE IMPORTANCE PLACED ON THE AVAILABILITY OF LITERATURE ABOUT DIFFERENT ETHNIC GROUPS WITHIN THE UNITED STATES, MANY QUALITY MULTICULTURAL PICTURE BOOKS, NOVELS AND INFORMATION BOOKS HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED IN THE US FOR THE PREK-12 AUDIENCE.

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Less emphasis has been placed on international literature, which Tomlinson and Lynch-Brown define as literature "originally published for the children in a country other than the United States in a language of that country and later published in the United States" (2002, pp. 199-200). International literature, therefore, does not include books about other countries written by American authors. For the purposes of this article international literature includes:

* books originally written in English by authors in countries such as New Zealand, England, Australia or Canada, then published or distributed in the US; and

* books first published in a foreign language, then translated and published in the US.

Teachers and librarians may not realize when they are sharing a Mem Fox book or checking out a Harry Potter title to a student that they are introducing children to international literature. An international title does not have to be one that has to be translated to be enjoyed, just one initially published in another country, many of which have English as their primary language, such as Australia, Canada, England and New Zealand.

Typically, however, those international titles found on school library shelves are rarely translated from another language. Homing, Lindgren and Schliesman documented only 71 titles translated into English in 2002, of which 10 were "fiction or nonfiction of substantial length" (2003, pp. 16-17).

INTERNATIONAL BOOK AWARDS AND HONORS

Due to the lack of knowledge in locating and selecting translated titles, even less emphasis is placed in the PreK-12 school environment in using translated titles to support the curriculum. Many teachers and librarians know of the Association of Library Service to Children's (ALSC) multicultural Coretta Scott King and Pura Belpre awards, but fewer can define the criteria for the Mildred L. Batchelder Award, created in 1966 and also granted by ALSC. The award is selected by a committee appointed by the ALSC and awarded to the US publisher of the most outstanding children's books translated into English and published in the United States. Although primary attention is given to the text for Batchelder consideration, outstanding picture books for older children have been selected as Batchelder Award winners (ALSC, 2004).

Mildred Batchelder describes the relevance of translated books in the PreK-12 environment best with this statement: "To know the classic stories of a country creates a climate, an attitude for understanding the people for whom the literature is a heritage. When children know they are reading in translation the same stories that children in another country are reading, a sense of nearness grows and expands" (Wheeler, 1967, pp. 180-181).

Another award closely related to the area of translated children's books is the Hans Christian Andersen Award, often referred to as the "Little Nobel Prize." Awarded every two years by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), it is "the highest international recognition" presented to an author and an illustrator whose body of works has "made an important and lasting contribution to children's literature" (Maissen, 2002). The author award has been given since 1956 and the illustrator award since 1966. Author winners of the Hans Christian Andersen Award include such notable authors as Bart Moeyaert (Belgium), Bjarne Reuter (Denmark), Tove Jansson (Finland), Christine Nostlinger (Austria) and Uri Orlev (Israel). Winners of the Illustrator Award include such well-known illustrators as Michio Made (Japan), Tomi Ungerer (France), Lisbeth Zwerger (Austria) and Quentin Blake (United Kingdom). …

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