Choosing Culturally Diverse Texts for the Classroom

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  • 0:04 Multiculturalism
  • 1:04 Native & Mexican American
  • 2:27 African American
  • 3:06 Asian American
  • 3:49 Muslim American
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will learn about using children's literature in the classroom to make instruction more relatable to diverse student populations, as well as to broaden the perspectives of all students.

Multiculturalism

Imagine going to school where no one looked or behaved the same as you. Wouldn't it be a relief to hear stories about people that reminded you of yourself?

Multiculturalism reflects how a society or group of people exists together with many diverse cultural traditions. Whether you teach at a school with a large amount of multiculturalism or very little, it is important to expose students to a variety of texts that are culturally diverse. Diversity pertains to a group that is comprised of varying races and cultures. Literature can function as a bridge to many cultural differences, as all cultures recognize their history and traditions through extensive written and oral storytelling. When choosing literature to share in the classroom, there are many benefits to exposing students to culturally diverse texts. Students from different backgrounds are able to better relate to stories with characters that are like them. Additionally, it is beneficial for all students to be aware of various cultures and customs to prepare them to live and work in our global economy.

Native & Mexican American

In Native-American culture, the art of oral storytelling has enabled Native Americans to not only remember their history, but also to preserve their important parables and folktales for generations. Nancy Van Laan's In a Circle Long Ago: A Treasury of Native Lore from North America is a collection of some of these Native American tales from various tribes all across North America.

It is important to note that there are over 500 federally recognized Native-American tribes in the United States, each with their own culture. While there are many commonalities throughout different tribes, such as a respect for the natural world and one another, books that ascribe generalities to all Native Americans are unintentionally offensive. An example of a story that is specific to a tribe is Indian Winter by Russell Freeman, which is an account of a prince's winter experience in 1833 with the Mandan Indians.

Mexican-American storytelling often focuses on retelling stories of how ancestors have overcome obstacles in the struggle against poverty. Selecting texts with biographical accounts of Latinos who have made an impact in the United States allows students to envision themselves as contributing members of society. In addition, books that include some Spanish words or phrases are helpful. For example, The Desert is My Mother/El Desierto Es Mi Madre by Pat Mora describes the desert using both English and Spanish words.

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