This semester students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.
By Julie Cuevas
Given the changing demographics in the United States, multicultural literature (books) must be available in all classrooms. The presence of these books suggests that teachers value other languages and cultures. Multicultural literature is an effective resource for increasing students’ awareness of diversity of cultures and languages by exposing them to different traditions, life styles, stories, cultures and languages. Bilingual books can play an important part in supporting English Language Learners’ native and second language development as well as bi-literacy development. Children who learn to read in their native language do not need to relearn to read in English, instead print knowledge and literacy skills transfers from the native language to English. Research supports that literacy in the student’s first language facilitates student’s development of proficiency in their native and second language, following academic success, and high levels of self-confidence and biliteracy ability. As a result, supporting the development of biliteracy is crucial in preparing students from minority language backgrounds to succeed in educational settings.
For English language learners, having opportunities to read materials in their first language can serve to affirm and value their native language and culture, as well as value them as good readers, even though they may struggle when they read English. The benefits of integrating multicultural literature in the native language of students increase their enthusiasm and reading comprehension. Similarly, monolingual students can also benefit from having access to a vast array of reading materials in different languages and representing different cultures. The presence of such reading materials sends clear messages to all students of the value and appreciation that their school and teachers attach to other languages and cultures.
Due to the importance of integrating a wide variety of multicultural books in classroom libraries, below is a list of books that can be included;
Books with the complete text in two languages
Books that switch between languages (English/Spanish – Code switching)
Books in English, interspersed with words or phrases in another language
Books available only in a language other than English.
Multicultural literature is an effective tool to foster second language acquisition and biliteracy development for a variety of learners, as well as improve home-school connections, supports family literacy programs, increase children’s awareness of multiculturalism, and encourage reading for pleasure. It is essential to integrate multicultural literature to assist teachers (including monolingual teachers), to promote multiple literacies that broaden student’s perspectives and appreciation of diversity of languages, cultures, and learn of different stories of children around the world.