The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 3 - Page 27

Resourceful Research

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classroom community by sharing their cultural heritage. Furthermore, multicultural education is not only a way to avoid discrimination; it is the belief that students and teachers can learn from one another. It is the belief that people do not need to agree with each other in every aspect in order to respect one another. Multicultural education sends the message to all students that yes, they matter and that others are just as valuable as they are. Multicultural education is not only to be implemented in a classroom

where cultural diversity is present. Non-diverse students need to be exposed to the culture of those who do not look like them. “Children’s literature has the capacity to provide students with vicarious experiences they would not otherwise have” (Lowery & Sabis-Burns, 2007, p. 51). Mathis (2001) described how one’s experiences can be enriched through literature:

Each of the books we read allowed the reader to feel the pain of discrimination, enjoy cultural pride of specific groups, learn about the customs of various geographic areas and their people, and perhaps analyze past history and how it affects various facets of the present such as economy, social practices, and so forth. (p.159)

The use of multicultural literature will result in open-minded, creative, and critical learners. Multicultural education fosters the development of children who will become global leaders! Suh and Samuel (2011) described the compelling influence that multicultural literature may have on students’ social development:

Thus by exposing young children to multicultural children’s literature, we can help increase their understanding and tolerance for diverse cultures. Moreover, multicultural literature can help all children gain positive self-concepts and their roles in American society. Literature can help children to become more tolerant and respectful to each other. It helps children identify with their own culture while sharing their cultural values with other children. (p.4)

Teachers and Cultural Identity

As educators, we need to act as reflective professionals. It is important for a teacher to self-evaluate:

How do I define my identity?

What do I value and why?

How does my cultural background influence what I do in my classroom?

What are my biases?

How do I connect with my students?

What are my expectations for my students’ performances?

All teachers are influenced by those around them and by the experiences to which they were exposed. Vygotsky (1966) stated, “Through others we become ourselves” (p.170). We need to reflect about ourselves

as individuals and as teachers because we are agents of transformation—we have the power to influence our students! Colby and Lyon (2004)

Faithful Elephants: Practicing Critical Literacy With Multicultural Children’s Literature

Jongsun Wee and Detra Price-Dennis

By: Luciane Hawkins

My question is, “Why do some teachers talk so little about the importance of cultural identity in the classroom?”