Building Intercultural Connections through Literacy Community Explorations of Global and Multicultural Literature
Research on educational innovation indicates that when educators connect collaboratively around a focus, they are more likely to transform their practice and to sustain a particular innovation. Their commitment to the group as well as the support and challenge that develop through dialogue and shared explorations provide a generative context for innovation. In 2010-2011, World of Words promoted this form of collaboration by awarding grants to four literacy communities. These literacy communities were made up of five to ten teachers that met regularly to explore how to use global and multicultural literature in their classrooms. Community members were also provided an online forum where they could share their explorations and support each other across the different groups. In turn, each literacy community wrote at least one vignette for WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom.
This effort by Worlds of Words was supported by the Longview Foundation for World Affairs and International Understanding, an organization that has been helping young people in the United States learn about world regions and global issues since 1966.
In this issue of WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom three literacy communities share their explorations of how to use global and multicultural literature with children. The issue begins with four vignettes from a literacy community based in Maryland. In “Building Intercultural Understandings through Global Literature: An Introduction to Our Work” Prisca Martens and Ray Martens provide an overview of their project goals and introductory engagements, which included exploring how global picture books support children’s intercultural understandings of themselves and others as cultural beings and the role art plays in their developing understandings. Michelle Hassay Doyle shares how her first graders explored family in “”That’s NOT how it is in my family!”: Children Develop Intercultural Understandings of Themselves and Others.” Jenna Loomis describes how her first graders investigated the idea of taking action across the globe in “He inspired others to change his world”: An Exploration of Taking Action through Reading and Writing.” Finally, in “Reading and Creating with Art: Picture Books in the Art Classroom” art teacher Stacy Aghalarov describes how she facilitates comprehension of global picture books through examining artistic techniques.
The next four vignettes come from a literacy community in Oklahoma. Seemi Aziz provides an overview of the literacy community in “Literature about Immigration and Middle Eastern Cultures.” Melanie Bradley and Zeinab Mohamed share how they supported first graders as students explored books representing Middle Eastern and Arab cultures in “Cross-Cultural Understanding through Children’s Literature.” In “First Grade Explorations of Global Literature about the Middle East,” Jackie Iob discusses how her ethnically and linguistically diverse students began developing global awareness and sensitivity while discussing several books depicting Middle Eastern or Arab cultures. The last vignette from this community is “Third Grade Connections to Middle Eastern and Arab Cultures” by Rhonda Hover. Hover shares how she used literature circles with a small group of struggling readers to confront ignorance and stereotypes about Muslim cultures.
The last set of vignettes is from a literacy community based in Spokane, Washington. Marilyn Carpenter provides an overview of the project in “Providing the Books for Literacy Community Classrooms.” Carpenter describes how she chose books for community members to use and discuss with their students. In “Redefining Normal in the Lives of Second Graders,” Melissa Carpenter shares how she helped students explore their personal culture, focusing on the concept of family. Next, three teachers, Abby Spencer, Lindsay Wing, and Lacey Grummons, describe engagements with children’s literature that supported inquiry into personal culture in “Exploring Personal Culture with Young Children.” Finally, Meg Baker, Charlotte Streit and Kimberly Wade discuss using global literature in a unit on Japan in “A Cross-Cultural Study of Japanese & American Culture.”
In our next issue of WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom we will share vignettes from the fourth literacy community. This will be followed by an unthemed issue in the spring of 2012. Think about how you connect students of all ages with literature in ways that promote intercultural understandings. Consider sharing your innovative practices by submitting a vignette to WOW Stories. We are interested in descriptions of interactions with literature in classrooms and libraries at preschool through graduate levels. See our call for manuscripts and author guidelines for more information.
Janine M. Schall
Editor, WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom