Global Perspectives in Caldecott Award Books: An Analysis of Books from the 1970s and 2000s

Article excerpt

Globalization has affected all parts of society, including education. Students today are expected to develop critical thinking skills as they gain a global awareness. Mansilla and Gardner (2007) define global awareness as "the capacity and the inclination to place our self and the people, objects, and situations with which we come into contact within the broader matrix of our contemporary world" (p. 58). Fostering such global awareness in the classroom can be a challenge for teachers. Students are required to understand and appreciate other cultures, and teachers are required to provide them with appropriate instruction that cultivates global citizenship.

Teachers around the world use literature as a medium to introduce students to new topics. One method for integrating global perspectives into the curriculum is by reading children's literature with students. Exposure to books about countries and people around the world can help prepare students to become knowledgeable members of the global community.

"Books are one way to learn about the world" (Botelho & Rudman, 2009, p. 1). Exploring a country through the perspective of a character who lives there can create a personal relationship with a place that is not possible through other media. Unlike the expository information encountered in textbooks, compelling stories help students gain a deeper understanding of people and cultures. Using children's literature as a tool to integrate global perspectives is an effective method to reflect a culture in the classroom. Through books, children can learn about their peers in other lands; the people, history, and culture of these countries come to life and offset common stereotypes. As Huck (1989) explained:

Through literature, children can begin to develop a sense of their humanness; they can develop new insights into the behavior of others and themselves. Literature can add a new dimension to life and create a new awareness, a greater sensitivity to people and surroundings. It can educate the heart as well as the head. (p. 262)

Books can help children foster an appreciation of others, while building an understanding of their own heritage. Children's literature that represents other parts of the world can be a valuable resource for developing global perspectives.


The idea of encouraging global awareness through the use of children's literature is not a new concept. For many years, social, political, and historical influences have affected children's literature. Historically, researchers have urged people to use children's books "as a means to advancing mutual respect among all peoples of the world" (Joels, 1999, p. 66). In the aftermath of World War I, Lofting (1924) proposed promoting world friendship through children's books, urging professionals to avoid any literature containing prejudices or stereotypes.

In 1944, the renowned French critic Paul Hazard wrote an influential book, Books, Children and Men, stressing the importance of using children's literature to promote global understanding. "Give us books, say the children, give us wings," is one of the most frequently quoted lines from the book (p. 4). Below is another powerful excerpt:

Children's books keep alive a sense of nationality; but they also keep alive a sense of humanity. They describe their native land lovingly, but they also describe faraway lands where unknown brothers live. They understand the essential quality of their own race; but each of them is a messenger that goes beyond mountains and rivers, beyond the seas, to the very ends of the world in search of new friendships. Every country gives and every country receives--innumerable are the exchanges--and so it comes about that in our first impressionable years the universal republic of childhood is born. (p. 146)


The end of World War II brought increased international interest in children's literature (Huck, Hepler, Hickman, & Kiefer, 1997). …