Teaching Diversity and Tolerance In The Classroom Through Children’s Literature

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“Katherine wanted to say, “Hi, Luis,” but she was afraid because she had never talked to anyone that looked so different from her. Luis had jek black hair, ebony brown skin, and his eyes were shaped differently than hers. Not knowing quite why, Katherine walked away and ignored Luis. She went home that day feeling sad and confused.” The Many Colors of Friendship

on-postibLibraryThis is the beginning of a unique and fun story about diversity I read to my young ESL students. In the above example, children learn that there are differences in hair color and texture, skin color, shapes of eyes. They learn to respect each other and celebrate diversity along with their new vocabulary. Children’s literature is probably the most powerful tool to teach children about differences we have. “Well chosen children’s literature can be a rich resource for educators as they support young children’s quest to better understand the world around them.” (Potter, Thirumurthy, Szecsi, & Salakaja, 2009). As a teacher, you can get many Amazon best-sellers for FREE on www.theiblibrary.com or on other sites that offer free ebooks for educators.

“By age 3, children have an awareness of differences in language, skin color, or customs. By age 4, children become aware of differences associated with handicaps. Even in the early years children are developing attitudes toward other racial groups” (Littlejohn-Blake, 2009, p. 96-j). So, it is important for teachers to review the children’s literature before introducing it to the children in order to make sure they do not reinforce biases. The diversity of children’s literature is an important component of early childhood education. Harper and Brand, (2010), suggest goals that teachers should pursue when integrating multicultural literature into the class. These goals are bringing an understanding to a child of respect for their own and others cultural identities, nurturing compassion towards each other, and considering multiple viewpoints. The teacher’s main goal will be helping children make connection between the literature and their own lives.

To accomplish the goals above, I am using the book about Luis who joined Katherin’s class. Luis looks very different in appearance than Katherine. Katherine is afraid to talk to Luis; therefore, she ignores him and walks away. She goes home from school that day feeling sad and confused. Katherine falls asleep in her bed that night, but when she awakes, she is in a magical jungle overflowing with every color imaginable. And waiting to meet her are four amazing, unique jungle animals: Sanjay the purple emerald boa, Addie the hairy orange tree sloth, Sophie the brilliant rainbow singing toucan and Chen the giant ocean blue panda. The jungle animals frighten Katherine at first, because they are so different in appearance than any animals she has ever seen before. But Sanjay, Addie, Sophie and Chen quickly help Katherine to confront her fears and to explore what being different is all about. Together, the unique and colorful animals of the jungle help Katherine to realize that friends come in many different colors, sizes and shapes. Katherine goes through a life altering and soulful journey that teaches her about differences, compassion and friendship. Enchantingly written and illustrated by Rita Kaye Vetsch, The Many Colors of Friendship is an ageless story of diversity that every reader will cherish and come away with a meaningful and positive message. Check reviews on Amazon.

Perini (2002) emphasizes that multicultural children’s books are able to support celebration of diversity that are often ignored in schools. Children’s literature is just one of the powerful tools that can be integrated into multicultural education lesson plan.

Resources:

Potter, Thirumurthy, Szecsi, & Salakaja. (2009). “Children’s literature to help young children construct understandings about diversity: Perspectives from four cultures”. Childhood Education. (86)2. 108-112

Littlejohn-Blake, Sheila. (2003). Learning about cultural diversity at the preschool level. Childhood Education, 79(2), 96J. Retrieved May 11, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals.

Harper L.J., Brand, S.T. (2010). More Alike than Different: Promoting Respect Through Multicultural Books and Literacy Strategies. Childhood Education 86 (4), 224-233.

Rita Kaye Vetsch (2009). The Many Colors of Friendship.

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