Korean-Origin Kindergarten Children's Response to African-American Characters in Race-Themed Picture Books

By Kim, So Jung | Education Research International, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Korean-Origin Kindergarten Children's Response to African-American Characters in Race-Themed Picture Books


Kim, So Jung, Education Research International


Academic Editor:Stephen P. Heyneman

Department of Teacher Education, The University of Texas at El Paso, Education Building, Room 801B, 100 University Avenue, El Paso, TX 79912, USA

Received 3 April 2014; Revised 1 July 2014; Accepted 15 August 2014; 6 April 2015

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction

Children start to understand racial differences from an early age [1-3]. According to Van Ausdale and Feagin [4], "Children as young as three and four employ racial and ethnic concepts as important integrative and symbolically creative tools in the daily construction of their social lives" (page 26). Eder [5] also claims that preschool children understand racial differences by distinguishing themselves from other racial and ethnic groups. As a pedagogical tool for teaching children racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity, many teachers and researchers highlight the significant role of multicultural literature [6-11]. These professionals argue that multicultural literature provides children with opportunities to understand the ethnic and cultural diversity that they meet as a part of their daily experiences. Most recently, a growing number of researchers have paid attention to the role of children's literature that deals with race themes (e.g., [12-15]). The existing studies provided important insights into the important role of race-themed picture books in young children's classrooms. Yet, since all of these studies were conducted in school-aged children's contexts, there is still a startling paucity of studies examining how picture books with race themes can be incorporated in preschool and kindergarten (Pre-K) classrooms. The search for previous studies is particularly challenging in bilingual contexts.

Discussing Race in Bilingual Classrooms . Bilinguals confront a variety of barriers in public and private schools [16-19]. For example, bilingual students have limited opportunities to receive quality instruction because a large number of minority students go to schools located in indigent districts [19]. Their challenges can also include cultural conflicts between the school and home [16] and the lack of sufficient curriculum materials in two-language surroundings [17]. In addition, language minority children often experience racism "on a daily basis in the form of jokes and/or derogatory gestures and comments ... based on their physical appearances" [20, page 133]. Marx [21] argues that these "racialized experiences" (page 119) are dangerous since they can hurt students' linguistic, cultural, and racial identity. Although many scholars have pointed out a continued need to understand racialized practices within early childhood settings [22, 23], race issues have rarely been investigated within bilingual contexts, because most early bilingual/biliteracy studies focused on vocabulary acquisition or sentence construction (e.g., [24-26]). In particular, nothing has been documented about bilingual Korean children's racial attitudes towards African Americans. The lack of previous studies becomes problematic when considering the historical context of relationships between Korean Americans and African Americans.

Relations between Koreans and Blacks . In spite of fast-growing numbers of foreign residents in the last ten years, Korea is still one of the most ethnically homogenous nations in the world [27]. Of these foreigners, African Americans comprise an extremely small percentage, and the Korean government does not even have definitive numbers for them (see [28]). Given this context, the only tools for Koreans to learn about African Americans are mass media such as Hollywood movies, Korean television shows, newspapers, and the American Forces Korean Network [29]. …

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