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EDU318: Literacy & Language Diversity: Multicultural Books

For Teachers

Choosing appropriate books

Students often ask library staff about finding multicultural books that are either appropriate or inappropriate.  You will find many, many multicultural books, both for children and adult audiences, in the library but it is up to each student to decide whether they are appropriate or not, using the criteria your instructor gives you. 

Some of the points you may want to consider are:

  • When was the book written?  Is a contemporary book likely to be more culturally sensitive than one written 20 years ago?
  • Is the author part of the ethnic group featured in the book?  If that information is not available in the notes or bookflaps, do a Google search to find out more about the author.  If the author is not part of that ethnic group, has he or she done extensive research?  Are there sources listed?
  • Are the illustrations stereotypical or dated?
  • Is the language respectful or condescending?    Is negative language necessary for the development of plot or characters?
  • If fiction: Are the characters stereotyped or individualized?  Some examples of stereotypes are: the noble savage, the lazy Mexican sleeping under a cactus, the loving black mammy. 
  • If non-fiction: Is the memoir or biographical information representative of  others from that ethnic group?  Is their experience typical or atypical?

Selected books