Diversity

Multiculturalism & Diversity: What is the Difference, and Why it’s Important

I’m going to be completely honest with you, I have written- and rewritten- this blog post about 10 times. It’s not because I don’t know what to say, it’s because I have too much to say. When you spend as much time, energy and passion on Multicultural Children’s Literature as I have, it sometimes becomes hard to step back and see the forest- not just the trees.

When this happens, I literally play entire conversations out in my head, just so I can streamline my thoughts. This is the conversation going on in my head right now:

My Brain (MB): Okay Alyson, here’s your chance to explain to all these people the one thing you’re so passionate about. Try not to make it so wordy (too late), and think, if there was one sentence that you could use to sum up multicultural literature, what would it be?

Me: I guess, well who I am I kidding, I know that that one sentence would be: “It’s all about authenticity.”

MB: See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

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Multicultural literature can be a mirror, a window, and a sliding glass door 1: it can be a reflection of the reader, it can show them another world, and it can empower them to take action. It is written from an authentic perspective by a member of the subject’s culture or someone who has been privy to those experiences 2, and is respectful and free of stereotypical depictions both in words and images.

Multicultural literature is important, because all too often it allows us to hear the voices of those who have been silenced and whose stories have not been told.

Multicultural Children’s Literature is about more than just the Pura Belpré medal, and the Coretta Scott King award. It’s about making these stories, experiences, and lives- especially those that aren’t represented by awards- heard all the time.   Multiculturalism is about more than just race and creed. It’s gender, sexuality, religion- it’s identity; and it’s about insuring they are shared in an authentic way.

Right now, there is a groundswell of support for diversity in the book world. I urge you to take that one step further, and push for multiculturalism. I’m not asking you to write a letter to a publisher or even use a hash tag- not everyone is comfortable with that. I’m asking that you start looking through your collections to make sure that you have books that reflect the author’s unique and authentic perspective. That the works be free of stereotypes and that they make you feel as though you are looking at yourself while learning about someone else.

Recommended Reading:

Campbell, Shelley. “Windows and Mirrors: A Case for More Multicultural Children’s Books Illinois Children’s Choice Award Lists.” Illinois Reading Council Journal 38.  (2010): 33. Web.

Johnson Higgins, Jennifer. “Multicultural Children’s Literature: Creating and Applying an Evaluation Tool in Response to the Needs of Urban

Educators.” New Horizons for Learning (2000): n. pag. Http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/strategies/topics/multicultural-education/multicultural-childrens-literature/. Johns Hopkins University. Web.

Landt, Susan M. “Children’s Literature with Diverse Perspectives: Reflecting All Students.” The Dragon Lode 32.1 (2013): 21-31. Print.

Norton, Donna E. Multicultural Children’s Literature: Through the Eyes of Many Children. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall, 2013. Print.

Rochman, Hazel. Against Borders: Promoting Books for a Multicultural World. Chicago: American Library Association, 1993. Print.

Sims Bishop, Rudine. Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom. 3rd ed. Vol. 6. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1990.

Woodson, Jacqueline. “Who Can Tell My Story.” The Horn Book Magazine 74.Jan/Feb  (1998): 34-38.

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Footnotes:

1  Sims Bishop, Rudine. Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom. 3rd ed. Vol. 6. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1990.

2   Woodson, Jacqueline. “Who Can Tell My Story.” The Horn Book Magazine 74.Jan/Feb (1998): 34-38.

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Our guest blogger today is Alyson Feldman-Piltch. Alyson lives in Brookline, MA. She is almost done with her MLS/MIS program and will graduate from Indiana University at Bloomington in May 2015. She is the Chair for the Task Force for Establishing Guidelines for Selecting Multicultural Materials through EMIERT-ALA, as well as a member of the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee and the 2015 Stonewall Book Award Committee.

When she isn’t reading, doing homework, blogging, or sleeping, Alyson can usually be found at Fenway Park or a midnight movie showing at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. She can be reached at alyson.fp@gmail.com and can be found on Twitter by following @aly_fp.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

2 comments

  1. Pingback: The Coolest Thing I Saw On The Internet: HOCKEY IS BACK | Storytime Underground

  2. Laura

    The Children’s Book Council has a Goodreads shelf full of multicultural and diverse books which is a great resource for Children and Young Adult Librarians!

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