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Developing Intercultural Competence with OIBs, Part 3: Seeing Ourselves with Multicultural Identities

By Susan Corapi, Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL

When people ask me to describe myself, I am hard-pressed to know where to begin. Do I start at the very beginning and talk about all the places I have lived that shaped the way I interact with current life events? Or do I start even further back and talk about my parents and grandparents because they shaped my early values? Or maybe I should start with my husband, sons, daughter-in-laws and grandkids and the way living with them has shaped my views on childrearing, family dynamics, nutrition, etc.? Or should I begin with the life-changing experience of being connected to the work of Worlds of Words? Or I could describe the ways working at a university has shaped the questions I ask or the professional books I read. All of these cultures I belong to have molded me into the person I am. I see myself as multicultural–a person who belongs to multiple groups who have shaped (and continue to shape) my beliefs and values that in turn impact the way I deal with life events.

Cover for Marisol McDonald features an upside down girl with red braids and arms hanging downOne of my favorite book characters who exhibits this same multicultural view of herself is Marisol McDonald (Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown and Sara Palacios). While others see her as a person who doesn’t “match” because she does not follow societal patterns, she sees herself as a person who loves all the parts of her Scottish/Peruvian/American background. So she eats peanut butter burritos, wears colorful dresses with her Peruvian hat (a gift from her grandmother) and throws in Spanish words when they express her thoughts better than English words. Marisol embodies the third descriptor of interculturally competent people: folks who see themselves with multicultural identities. This week we will look at several of the titles on the USBBY Outstanding International Books 2019 list list that serve as examples of multicultural identities. Continue reading

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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

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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

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Malala’s Magic Pencil and Free As a Bird

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

The next couple of books for this final week focusing on books about Malala Yousafzai are Malala’s Magic Pencil and Free As a Bird. Malala’s Magic Pencil is written by Malala herself and published in 2017. Free As a Bird is more recent, published in 2018, and is written and illustrated by Lina Maslo, who lives in South Carolina.

Malala's Magic Pencil Cover as described in post Continue reading

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More Books about Malala Yousafzai

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

In week three, I explore further trends in books about Malala Yousafzai and issues that lie therein. For this post, I discuss Malala A Brave Girl from Pakistan by Jeanette Winter. This Chicago-based American writer has written extensively about international regions and issues, as well as the regions where Muslims reside, within the genres of fiction and nonfiction. Her famed stories include The Librarian of Basra set in Iraq and Nasreen’s Secret School set in Afghanistan. I also discuss Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya, a journalist turned author who is married to an Egyptian and travels widely.

Malala Yousafzai by Karen Leggett Abouraya cover collage art depicts Malala with other students holding composition books Continue reading

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Malala Activist for Girls’ Education and For the Right to Learn

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Most of the books mentioned in the first week of this series on books about Malala Yousafzai were submitted for book awards and considered distinctly above and beyond the run on the mill books that frame the Malala rhetoric by at least the publishers. Each story has the same narrative with various distinctions and have varied illustration distinctions. Malala story’s attraction is undeniable in all of the texts. Her being shot and surviving gives credence to the story as the girl who lived to use her incident to further her cause.

Cover art for Malala, Activist for Girls Education is an illustration of Malala in a bright pink scarf holding a bouquet of flowers and books Continue reading

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Malala Yousafzai In Books for Children

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona, Tucson

I Am Malala cover depicting Malala in a red floral scarf against a teal backgroundSince Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani heroine who propagates education for women, hit the world stage there has been a huge spotlight on her life and activities globally, especially captured and projected in the arena of children’s books. Her near-death experience at the hands of the Taliban sets her story apart in more ways than one. Her dramatic entry into the global narrative reinforces concerns of women’s oppression and lack of education in Muslim countries and takes it to whole new level. Continue reading

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Italicizing Non-English Words: The Case of Spanish in Picturebooks

By María V. Acevedo, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
With Rebecca Ballenger, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

I read out loud All Around Us, by Xelena Gonzalez, illustrated by Adriana García, to a class of undergraduate students. When I read, “We eat what we’ve grown-crunchy lettuce, sweet carrots and spicy chiles,” one of my students said, “I love your Spanish accent.” Chiles is the only Spanish word in this picturebook and it is not italicized. The student’s comment made me think of picturebooks that highlight non-English words in one way or another and the implications of this practice to fictional characters and readers.

Cover art for La Princesa and the Pea shows a girl with a crown of flowers sitting atop multiple mismatched mattresses and a surly cat perched on the bed's footboard Continue reading

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Latinx Picturebook Artists and Muralists

By María V. Acevedo, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

For centuries, muralists from around the world have made art public and accessible for the people. From cavern painting during the Upper Paleolithic times to contemporary graffiti in the streets of Santurce, Puerto Rico, murals have made children, youth and adults stop, notice, think and even act. This post explores the power of murals and muralists in Latinx picturebooks.
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Reflections for Mother’s Day, Motherhood and Significant Caregivers

By María Acevedo-Aquino, Texas A&M University-San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

When I think about Mother’s Day, I think about individuals with an extraordinary capacity for nurturing, protecting, guiding, knowing, caring and loving. I also think about my mom living far away; my sister who will become a mother very soon; one of my former preschool students who lost his mom when he was 4 years old; my friend Sonia, her wife, and their baby Oscar; Dani, who awaits in a foster care residency in Spain to go back home; and, a dear friend who recently lost her son. I think about the numerous complex stories that shape personal and collective views of motherhood and days like Mother’s Day. Through this post, I hope to offer questions, rather than answers, and opportunities for dialogue, instead of a list of concepts to teach.

Julian Is a Mermaid Cover featuring a child posed with an arm in the air and wrapped in a sheet at the waist and a headdress of flowers Continue reading