Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults: Reflections on Critical Issues

Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults: Reflections on Critical Issues

Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults: Reflections on Critical Issues

Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults: Reflections on Critical Issues

Synopsis

While there is much discussion about multicultural children's literature, there are conflicting views on what it is and how it should be taught. This book examines many of the issues presently surrounding the place of multicultural children's literature in the curriculum. The first part of the book addresses the conceptualization of multicultural literature for children; the second, the creation and critique of multicultural writings; and the third, the use of this literature in education. Included are discussions of such topics as who can write multicultural literature, how multicultural literature should be selected for use with children, and what function it should serve in a student's overall education.

Excerpt

Do we need a category of books called multicultural literature? If yes, how do we define it? And who can create true multicultural literature? Can [outsiders] create culturally authentic works about a culture? How do we evaluate and select multicultural literature for use with children? What functions do we expect it to serve for educational purposes? How do we incorporate multicultural literature into the curriculum? These are some of the critical issues that have been discussed and debated for the past two or three decades. Writers, critics, educators, and librarians are divided in their opinions regarding these issues. Ever since I was a graduate student at Ohio State University, about ten years ago, I have been thinking and writing about them. This book collects my reflections on some of the major issues in multicultural literature for children and young adults and presents them in a systematic way.

Many of the issues I address in this book are controversial. To clarify the controversies, we need to know how they arise. One of the major factors that causes the controversies is largely political. As Joel Taxel (1997) points out, the debates surrounding multicultural literature for children and young adults [are best understood in the context of historical trends and development in the American society] (p. 417). The rise of multicultural literature is a political, rather than a literary, movement. It is a movement to claim space in literature and in education for the historically marginalized social groups, rather than one to renovate the craft of literature itself. It has grown out of the civil rights movement and feminist movement in the 1960s and 1970s (Cai and Sims Bishop, 1994; Taxel, 1997). Since the day it came into existence, multicultural literature has been closely bound with the cause of multiculturalism and confronted with resistance from political conservatives. Recently there has been a [backlash against the multicultural movement] (Taxel, 1997, p. 417) in general literature and in multicultural literature in particular. Political conservatives view multiculturalism as an evil force [bent on undenriining Western culture] (Cope and Kalantzis, cited . . .

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