Promoting multicultural literature in schools is becoming a widely spread practice in the US, and in many schools it has become compulsory. Despite critics of the system claiming that students will lose their sense of American identity, a multi-cultural approach to education in fact reinforces students’ feeling of being ‘American.’
Classrooms across the US are comprised of students from diverse cultural backgrounds, and sources used in education should reflect this diversity. All students, regardless of ethnicity, who have access to multicultural literature will face vocabulary that is both challenging and familiar. Additionally, they will encounter stories that promote difference positively, rather than seeing it as something to fear or hate. Experts concur that multicultural literature is of benefit to all students, “regardless of ethnicity, race, language, social class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and other differences” (Literature).
While helping students to become sensitive and tolerant people, accurate books containing convincing plots and well-rounded characters inspire students to read and think more critically. Ensuring multicultural literature is available for all students can also promote individual self-esteem and confidence (Literature). Through the themes, characters, and conflicts of these books, students will be encouraged to connect with peers and the world around them. Additionally, they will learn to appreciate multiple perspectives as part of their lifelong learning.
Critics of the multi-cultural approach in education worry that by exposing young people to multicultural, rather than western, literature the US will lose its national identity and unity. However, America as a whole is becoming ever more multicultural, and acknowledging and embracing this fact will actually make the country more unified.
For children, books provide windows to the world. This is particularly true for children whose experiences are limited by similar home and school environments. Reading about characters from around the world nurtures children's understanding and respect for cultural groups, both familiar and different to their own.
Books can also promote empathy to children, by expanding their knowledge about how people around the globe are both alike and dissimilar from themselves. “Research shows that there is a positive correlation between empathy development and lowered prejudicial attitudes and behaviours” (Multicultural).
Some critics of the system worry that by acknowledging differences may lead to divisiveness. However, research on differences reveals the opposite: that recognizing human differences in fact creates unity (Multicultural).
An argument in favour of using multicultural literature in schools is that children from ethnic minorities will be benefited. For most young people, books act as mirrors in which they seem themselves reflected. When children are embodied in literature, they begin to consider themselves as valued. On the other hand, when children fail to see correct representations of themselves, they may adopt the feeling that they are not credible of notice (Multicultural)
Additionally, literature should endorse social action to fight injustice. Children need to be exposed to stories about people who have had victory in facing unfairness. Books can motivate children by demonstrating the influence of pro-social actions against injustice (Multicultural).
In spite of critics’ concerns, the promotion of multicultural sources in education will improve children’s sense of identity, as well as encouraging them to think more globally and have respect and understanding for both their own cultural groups and others.
“Literature for Every Student: Multicultural Literature in the Classroom.” Web. 28 March.
“Multicultural and Anti-Bias Books for Children.” A World of Difference Institute. Web. 28
March. 2011. http://www.adl.org/bibliography/