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Why Educators Should Learn About Multicultural Literature and Teaching

A female African American high school student stands in a library, intently reading a book.The works of literature studied in school provide many students with their first opportunity to learn about cultures and people of ethnicities other than their own. By offering new perspectives through multicultural literature, teachers support students in becoming better global citizens.

The immersive nature of reading provides a unique and comprehensive way for students in the United States to see life through the eyes of people from other cultures. Literary protagonists from outside their direct experience allow students to see the differences in various cultures and the common humanity of people everywhere. In this way, multicultural literature is part of a culturally responsive curriculum that is essential in the modern classroom.

For teachers motivated to learn more about providing their students with these opportunities, Fresno Pacific University offers a professional development course, Multicultural Literature & Teaching, that delves into the best educational practices in this vital endeavor.

What Is Multicultural Literature?

Multicultural literature promotes multicultural perspectives and supports global awareness. The best multicultural literature not only presents students with a central character’s point of view from a place and culture other than their own but also makes that culture a core facet of the novel.

Multicultural literature may include a vast number of historical and contemporary literary works. For example, all these novels represent multicultural literature: “The Iliad” by Homer, “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott and the “Persepolis” graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi. Each makes understanding the cultural setting key to understanding the work.

The website Goodreads lists examples of multicultural literature for students in the modern classroom. It also shows the wealth of options available to teachers who want to incorporate multicultural literature into their classrooms.

Multicultural Literature and a Culturally Responsive Curriculum

Educators believe multicultural literature is critical because it widens students' perspectives. Literature provides students (and adults, for that matter) the experience of learning about the challenges and triumphs of life through the eyes and thoughts of someone from a different culture.

According to the Harvard Business Review, reading also builds empathy and critical-thinking skills. Reading helps the reader strengthen the cognitive skills that provide the foundation of emotional intelligence, which centers on understanding their emotions and those of others.

Multicultural literature is also important because it emphasizes what unites everyone. No matter where people live or what language they speak, they have common traits - anxieties, fears, joys and love of family and friends. This can help children and teens understand at an early age the characteristics that unite people wherever they live.

Just as importantly, multicultural literature is part of a culturally responsive curriculum that respects every learner’s culture and experience. A culturally responsive curriculum focuses on regarding diverse cultures as an asset, making every student feel valued. It also challenges racial and cultural stereotypes, rejects racism and other forms of intolerance and injustice and supports social justice and academic equity.

Fresno Pacific’s Multicultural Literature & Teaching Course

Educators can earn professional development credits and widen their knowledge on these critical topics by taking Fresno Pacific University’s online “Multicultural Literature & Teaching” course. The 100% online program allows educators to learn from wherever they live. Teachers can enroll at any time and take up to one year to complete the course.

As part of the course, teachers create lesson plans incorporating multicultural literature and a whole unit with three connected plans demonstrating culturally responsive teaching and multicultural literature in the classroom. They also produce a presentation for professional collaboration that includes book lists and classroom plans.

Understanding the benefits of multicultural literature in creating a culturally responsive curriculum prepares teachers for success with an increasingly diverse student population. Teachers with this knowledge also help prepare students of all races, cultures and ethnic origins for a successful and productive life in a modern, global society.

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