WOW Currents banner

Developing Intercultural Competence with OIBs, Part 4: Feeling Comfortable Living in the Borderlands Between Cultures

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

This week’s characteristic of intercultural competence is hard to “pin down” with good reason because it involves having a flexible mindset. Homi Bhabha, a Harvard professor who has written about this in his essay The Location of Culture (1994), calls it living in the present in the borderlands. He explains that instead of thinking of ourselves as belonging in certain cultures or spaces, we think of ourselves as in between, or the area between categories where things are fuzzy and we are redefining some of our identity. It is a place of tension–no doubt about it. But it is also an exciting place because it is an area of growth. It is a willingness to live in the messy areas instead of feeling the need to define everything in fixed categories. Continue reading

WOW Currents banner

Developing Intercultural Competence with OIBs, Part 2: Seeking Multiple Perspectives

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

This week I profile titles from the USBBY Outstanding International Books 2019 list that serve as examples of another characteristic of intercultural competence. In the two fictional titles the main character is forced to understand different perspectives. In the non-fiction texts, the reader is invited to consider multiple ways of seeing the world.

One of my earliest conscious thoughts about people who move easily between cultures happened when I was a teenager and had just returned to the U.S. after having spent five years living in France. It struck me that the way my French friends approached life was just as “valid” as the approach of my new American friends. One was not better or more correct than the other–they were just different. Years later, my husband and I took our four boys to France to live for two years because we wanted them to learn that there are multiple ways of approaching food, family, the tempo of life, academic studies, etc. I wanted them to understand how important it is to seek other perspectives–it does not require agreeing with the perspectives, but it does mean finding them and hearing them. This willingness to look for other perspectives and listen to them is a characteristic of an interculturally competent person. The four books mentioned in this post helped me understand a perspective I was not familiar with. As a result I did more research on facts or ideas I discovered in these books.

Book Jackets from all four books mentioned in post that encourage seeking multiple perspectives. Continue reading

WOW Currents banner

Developing Intercultural Competence with OIBs, Part 1: Becoming Curious

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

This last year I had the joy of serving on the USBBY committee for the 2019 list of Outstanding International Books (OIB). I loved every minute of reading around 450 titles that came from around the world. What could be better than a good book that stretches my mind and my emotions? So, this month I want to add on to the WOW Currents piece from February in which fellow committee member, Janelle Mathis, shares titles that intrigue her.

I will profile more of the 2019 titles by focusing on ways in which the books can support the development of intercultural competence–the ability to move between cultures well. I selected one characteristic of intercultural competence each week, pairing it with outstanding international books that can provide examples (or non-examples) of the characteristic.

The first characteristic is curiosity about the world, and that includes curiosity about a lot of things! It is one that goes beyond what is known as the “Fs” of culture (the external things we look at when thinking about different cultures): food, fashion, festivals, famous people and flags. The curiosity of an interculturally competent person centers more on discovering the values and beliefs that make people do what they do. Below are both works of fiction and nonfiction. The first embeds that curiosity in a story; the second presents information in a fascinating way that makes us want to know more.

Book covers of the OIB books for developing intercultural competence mentioned in this post. Continue reading

WOW Currents banner

Explore Imagination through Outstanding International Book Characters

By Janelle Mathis, University of North Texas

Imagination in its many forms is present in much of children’s and young adult literature just as it is in “real” life. It can help us deal with situations that are seemingly beyond our control, express ourselves in authentic ways through other sign systems, create practical solutions to everyday needs or desires, position ourselves in other contexts as we work to understand other perspectives and eras and add an enjoyable fantasy element to our lives. I always enjoy revisiting the following quote: “Imagining possibilities is at the core of understanding other people, other times, and other places” (Wilhelm and Edmiston, 1998, p. 4). I also am reminded of Frank Smith’s idea (1992) that imagination makes reality possible (1992). So, while there are many ways to celebrate imagination in children’s literature, I would like to share, from the 2019 (published in English in 2018) OIB list, a few very basic examples of children using imagination in seemingly simplistic ways. I believe that these are the seeds that can grow into more complex uses of imagination as children grow into creative and responsible adults.

Cover for Stories of the Night by Kitty Crowther Continue reading