When I was in grade school, I don’t recall coming across to many books that weren’t traditionally in the curriculum. I mean everything I read in grade school was a solid, remarkable piece of literature but nothing I could ever relate too.
Even though I grew up in a diverse time, I didn’t read multicultural literature in school. I read them on my own time. Multicultural literature should be integrated into the curriculum of today’s school system; I believe multicultural literature teaches children about the similarities they have with another culture as well as it being a way for children to relate to others.However finding good quality multicultural literature is maybe very hard to come by. Cultural knowledge is important in today’s society, with America being such a melting pot.
America is a heterogeneous culture, and this is one of the reasons why exposure to different experiences through literature is a crucial part of educational curriculum. If we take a look in classrooms today across America, we will find students of all races, ethnicities, backgrounds, and cultures. Students in the classroom come from different social classes and all kinds of family structures.Richard Rodriquez the author of “Public and Private Language” was growing during a time when he was the only Mexican American in his class. He tells the story of how hard it was for him to adapt to the new surroundings he was in and learn English.
If multicultural literature had been apart of Rodriquez curriculum, he would have been a little less reluctant to participate in class, “So their voices would search me out, asking me questions. Each time I’d hear them, I’d look up in surprise to see a nun’s face frowning at me.I’d mumble, not really meaning to answer” (Rodriquez 283). Multicultural literature helps children identify with their own culture, and exposes children to other cultures, while helping to open up dialogue on issues regarding diversity.
Literature is a way for children to understand the world around them; the experiences, emotions, and events that other individuals live with each day. In literature authors speak of individuals that have disabilities, other religious backgrounds.My experience is that in order for children to accept other ethnicities and backgrounds have to be shown that not everyone in the class has the same background. I think by exposing the differences of culture, children can learn how to relate to other children.
Now here is where the challenge lies; making multicultural literature available to all children. As I stated before, I don’t recall having read multicultural literature in grade school and to be quite frank, I don’t believe a lot of my peers have either.I remember a time when I was in seventh grade; I was in the cafeteria reading a book that had an African American girl on the cover, and this Caucasian girl walks up to me and asked what I was reading. As I discussed the book to her, I remember her face and her saying to me that she never heard of “black” girl being a lawyer.
From that moment in my life it was evident to me that I was not the only child to realize the effects of seeing only white people portrayed in books during my years in school.Today I realize the dilemma that African American children face in regards to having access to literature that they can relate too. It’s hard to find literature that celebrates and acknowledges diversity. It was very hard when I was growing up to find books that I could relate to. I suppose that it’s hard for Caucasians to realize the importance of such types of literature. Attempt to imagine how it would feel to have one dominate culture in every book you read as a child.
It was a smothering feeling to have white characters in everything I read as a child in school. This is what author Opal Palmer Adisa experienced as a child growing up in Jamaica. Jamaica in under British rule, so even though the country is predominantly black people, it was very rare if not a miracle of some sort that multicultural literature was even shown to the children in school, “…I suppose as a result of being reared in the colonial society with a British education that vociferously denounced Jamaica’s cultural ethos.In fact, we were presumed to lack history and therefore had nothing worthwhile to write about” (Adisa 185). Multicultural literature is important if not for any other reason than for a child to fee good about themselves. No one wants their child to feel like they are alone or can’t relate to anyone in their peer group. Multicultural literature will help children of all backgrounds and genders become confident, give them a roe model.
And most importantly of all show them what to look forward to when they get into the world. It can be hard out here.