The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 3 - Page 28

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Resourceful Research

share my perspective about the influence teachers have on students:

The impact of a thoughtful teacher can be profound. As teachers become more aware of their own beliefs, attitudes, and practices relating to diversity in the classroom, the children they teach will benefit. This may well be an important step towards reaching our goal of assisting children as they develop into productive citizens in a pluralistic society. (p. 28)

Teaching is a huge responsibility and should not be taken lightly. Once you reflect on who you are and what influences your teaching, you may set personal goals for personal growth. In order to use multicultural literature to inspire and transform the classroom into a community of critical thinkers who identify and value their own cultural identity, as well as the cultural identity of others, the educator must experience personal connections with multicultural and critical literatures. Through their personal experiences, educators will “realize the empowering nature of such literature” (Mathis, 2001, p.159). Teachers’ personal inquiries and honest self-reflections will determine the power of their instruction when using a sociocultural perspective to teach literacy skills. Other questions to ask yourself are, “How can I grow as a global educator? Why is globalized education important and relevant to my classroom?”

Many educators believe that culturally-relevant education and the use of multicultural literature are not meaningful to their students because of the absence of minority students in their classrooms. When responding to this perspective, it is important to remind teachers about the role of our country in the world—an international leader. It is our responsibility to prepare our students for their roles as international leaders—all of them! Suh and Samuel (2011) stated, “Major industries all report that they need global citizens, workers who are sensitive to other cultures, and also workers who can work together and communicate with people of all backgrounds” (p. 3).

Missouri State University hosted several Statewide Collaborative Diversity Conferences in which local businessmen, educators, and community leaders met to discuss the role of diversity in today’s globalized worlds. Minority and non-minority community leaders and members met to discuss how our region is responding to current society demands. In one of these meetings in which I participated, the CEO of one of the Missouri’s most important companies communicated about how some of his employees struggled when working with people from different cultures and how this impacted local businesses. He was offering resources to help improve multicultural education within our schools. I shared this information as a way to reinforce that globalized education matters to all, including our rural communities. We need to believe that all students are capable of transforming their worlds…regardless of their socioeconomic status. This is multicultural education…the education for equal opportunities and hope!

Critics to the use of multicultural literature in the classroom sometimes refer to the quality of such literature. Some teachers defend their choice of not considering the cultural or ethnic backgrounds of the literature they use in their classrooms based on the argument that books should be selected based only on their literary value. Yes, books should be selected based on their literary value and based on the skills the teacher desires to teach; however, this perspective insinuates that high-quality multicultural books are non-existent. Ernst and Mathis (2007) described high-quality multicultural literature as being “characterized by rich language, captivating illustrative techniques, and authentic stories within all genres” (p. 10). Literacy skills can be taught through the use of multicultural books, as well as through non-diverse literature. Unfortunately, multicultural literature is often not available in classrooms. Commercial curriculums, such as different types of basals, rarely include multicultural books in their collections. This is a common issue that takes place in all grade levels. Teachers often use their own money to purchase diverse literature. Although quality is a major requirement, it is not the only one. Based on the knowledge that there is a vast repertoire of high-quality multicultural literature, teachers should also consider their students’ needs when selecting books to use in their lessons.

Fostering a Lasting Motivation to Read:

Lessons from Community Reading Programs

by

Dr

Dr. WIlliam Kerns and Dr. Betty Porter Walls

The candidates first received training from ILA members who are reading specialists.