Multicultural Books FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATORS

By Gangi, Jane M. | Montessori Life, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Multicultural Books FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATORS


Gangi, Jane M., Montessori Life


Children of color make up almost 40% of the population in the United States, and 70% of tlie population of the world, yet too often their stories, their families, and their communities are minimized in classroom collections of children's literature, as well as in the books chosen for reading aloud. Rudine Sims Bishop (1990) offers an interesting theory: All children need both "mirror" books and "window" books-books that reflect back who they are, as well as books that open worlds larger than the one they know.

Mirror books are especially important for literacy development. Research shows that, to become proficient readers, children must be able to make personal connections with books. When there is an abundance of books by and about white people, white children have significantly more opportunities to activate their prior knowledge and, thus, progress further along the road to reading proficiency. When there is a paucity of books by and about people of color, children of color are not afforded the opportunities white children have to activate their prior knowledge.

Children's book authors and illustrators are often pictured on book jackets, and children of color also need to see authors and illustrators who look like them. There are fine white writers of multicultural children's books (for example, Vera Williams and Ezra Jack Keats); however, there are also many equally deserving authors and illustrators of color. And children of all colors need to see that talent comes in all colors.

Including a more equitable balance of multicultural books in the classroom will ensure that all children have both mirror and window books. For me, as a white person, Tomás and the Library Lady by Pat Mora is a window book into the life of a migrant child who loves books and learning, yet does not have a library card (something I have almost never been without). For a Mexican American and /or migrant child, Tomás is a mirror book. Pat Mora and her beautiful books can be a source of pride for Mexican American children, who can be mentored both by Mora, a writer, and Tomás Rivera, the main character of the story, who became a chancellor of the University of California.

The following list offers multicultural books in a range of genres: poetry, folklore, picture books, concept books, drama, and nonfiction (informational books and biographies). Informational books and biographies are especially important for boys, who often prefer nonfiction to fiction. Teachers can validate nonfiction by including the genre in read-alouds.

PICTURE BOOKS

Featherless/Desplumado

by Joan Felipe Herrera; illustrated by Ernesto Cuevas, Jr.

A story in which a young boy with spina bifida is able to score a soccer goal, even though he's in a wheelchair, with the help of a new friend.

Going Home, Coming Home

by Truong Tran; illustrated by Ann Phong

A Vietnamese American girl's fears about her first trip to Vietnam are quickly quelled when she meets her Vietnamese grandmother.

Jingle Dancer

by Cynthia Leitich Smith; illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

All the women in her family help Jenna get ready for her first jingle dance by each giving her one bell. Family love is apparent, and it is refreshing to see contemporary American Indians in contemporary dress and occupations.

Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin

by Michelle Lord; illustrated by Felicia Hoshino

This historical fiction picture book is based on the true story of a Cambodian girl who came with her dance troupe to Paris in 1906, where Rodin sketched her.

Lizzie Nonsense: A Story of Pioneer Days

by Jan Ormerod

In the Australian outback during pioneer days, Lizzie's imagination infuses her life-and her mother's life-with beauty and magic.

Marianthe's Story One: Painted Words and Marianthe's Story Two: Spoken Memories

by Aliki

Aliki has written and illustrated over 100 children's books. …

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