The Role of Multicultural Literature

Appropriate content is one of the major elements of multicultural/diverse perspective instruction (Banks, 1990). Literature, a major carrier of content, is a powerful medium for understanding the world. Young children find it easier to assimilate new information when this information is presented within the structure of a story (Wells, 1986).

Cultural Authenticity

Experts in multicultural education frequently emphasize the importance of using literature to increase cultural awareness (Piper, 1986; Tway, 1989). The literature used should accurately portray the history, customs, values, and language of a particular cultural group (Sims, 1982). Through sharing carefully selected literature, students can learn to understand and to appreciate a literary heritage that comes from many diverse backgrounds (Norton, 1990).

Improves Self-Concept

Students also benefit from reading literature that reflects their own ethnic and cultural background. Such literature can be an important tool in helping all students develop a healthy self-concept - one that is based on a knowledge of and a sense of pride in family background (Hittleman, 1978).

Promotes Understanding Among Cultures

The use of multicultural literature can also extend students' knowledge about parallel cultures by exposing them to the differences and similarities between their culture and that of other groups (Norton, 1983). These observations, documented in research, support the notion that incorporating multicultural literature into the curriculum can expand students' awareness and decrease negative stereotyping of individuals from other cultures (Litchner & Johnson, 1973).

Literature can present students with clear contrasts in perspectives and can help them to understand their own cultural heritages and those of others - within and outside the classroom (Rasinski & Padak, 1990).


Go on to Strategies to Support Multicultural Instruction
Back to What is Multicultural Instruction?


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