To ameliorate the dangers of the single story, MCD literature needs a substantial volume of works of quality and legitimacy. O’Sullivan (2004) provides a sober history of MCD literature, commencing with the post-war idealistic creation of institutions such as International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) and the International Youth Library (IYL) in Munich and ending with damning statistics on “how international is international children’s literature?” – hint – it’s not. Facts that are echoed by annual tallying of books in the USA by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (2015).
Power to change
One of the differentiating factors of education in an IB school is the hope that: “our students will help to build a better world through intercultural understanding and respect” (International Baccalaureate Organisation, n.d., para. 2). Equity, social justice and reform is at the heart of multicultural education (Gorski, 2011; Cai and Bishop, 1994, cited in Short & Fox, 2003). Intrinsic to the inquiry cycle of the PYP is “taking action” – students are expected to go beyond researching and understanding to making a difference in the world. However in order to fulfil its literary and pedagogical potential, MCD literature needs to simultaneously be at the right developmental level, to emphasize desirable attributes, be honest and authentic while fulfilling the other usual criteria for quality including well developed plot, skilful illustrations, appealing characters and connection with the reader (Cai, 2002; McNamee & Mercurio, 2007; Nikolajeva, 2012; Oswald & Smolen, 2011).
This article focuses on the latter due to topical relevance; pervasive current media coverage; curricula relevance; the fact that most students in international schools have personal experience of relocation; and the reality of schools as “the most public environment in which diverse student populations come into contact with each other” (Tanners, 1997, cited in Lowery, 2011, p. 268). In addition, migration literature has evolved as a unique genre (Bersh, 2013; Hope, 2007; Kimmel et al., 2015).
Value to the collection
MCD literature has been shown to enhance the reading comprehension of language learners through its culturally familiar material and creating a window to view others engaged in language learning in a non-trivial manner (Hadaway & Young, 2011). In nearly all the texts highlighted the learning of English forms a central theme: “Until you children master English, you must think, do, wish for nothing else” - Inside Out and Back Again (Lai, 2011, p. 132); “the boys weren’t just learning English; they were hiding themselves inside English” - The Unforgotten Coat (Cottrell Boyce, 2011, p. 38). Kasienka’s initial low level of English holds her back academically in The Weight of Water (Crossan, 2011); and Maxie has to grapple with Drita’s poor English in Drita my Homegirl (Lombard, 2008) while for Manjiro, Heart of a Samurai (Preus, 2010), learning English is a matter of survival.
Besides the power of story, illustrations contribute to character depth and enhance understanding (Broadway & Conkle, 2011). The use of primary source material to illustrate Heart of a Samurai (Preus, 2010) and The Journey that Saved Curious George (Borden & Drummond, 2005) contributes to the authenticity of the story as well as allowing a segue into aspects of research and information literacy.
Socio-emotional and meta-cognitive skills
The development of resilience, empathy and theory of mind is articulated as an educational goal by most educational systems and the importance of vocabulary (Bosacki & Wilde Astington, 2001; Figueroa-Sánchez, 2008) and literature in developing theory of mind is well documented (Djikic & Oatley, 2014; Kidd & Castano, 2013; McTigue, Douglass, Wright, Hodges, & Franks, 2015). Although bibliotherapy is a distinct specialisation, from its research we are aware of the power of literature to provoke a socio-emotional response and empathy and to reach individuals who may not be open to other forms of intervention (Djikic, Oatley, Zoeterman, & Peterson, 2009; Gomm, 2012; Johnson, 2012; Montgomery & Maunders, 2015; Riahinia, Azimi, & Seify, 2010). Both William her boyfriend-in-spe and Konoro – her “too black” immigrant-doctor-who-is-a-cleaner neighbour tell Kasienka she has the resilience to save herself - Weight of Water (Crossan, 2011), Manjiro’s mettle is tested on the whaling boat, in America and when he attempts to return to Japan - Heart of a Samurai, (Preus, 2010) and Hà survives fleeing Vietnam and settling in Alabama – Inside Out (Lai, 2011).
The deployment of virtual reality (VR) tools such as Clouds over Sidra (Arora & Milk, C., 2015), where one not only observes but is immersed in the experience takes situating students inside a story further, with many authors hailing the ability of VR to enhance empathy. There is some debate around the problems and potential of VR, to promote empathy through mirror neurons (Constine, 2015; Hamilton, 2015; Sutherland, n.d.) as well as its suitability for children (Lewis, 2015).
Role of the teacher librarian
The TL needs to constantly be vigilant as the criteria of suitability changes with increased cultural awareness and as research into MCD literature is published. Fortunately today more sophisticated and relevant MCD works are being published that can replace dated and unsuitable material. Part of the role of the TL involves the diplomatic ‘re-education’ of teachers who may automatically reach to favourites from their youth that have subsequently been condemned by cultural insiders as prejudiced, or portraying stereotypes or negative cultural images (Short & Fox, 2003). Extreme sensitivity should be shown towards ‘insider’ readers of books in the collection and the TL needs to make teachers aware of ‘insider’ reviews of the books included as curriculum resources (Doll & Garrison, 2013).
A small collection of books that meet the MCD criteria is no longer sufficient – every book should be scrutinized in order to ensure its potential to: validate experience and identity; appreciate other cultures; understand socio-political factors; critically examine the society we live in and prevent and reduce prejudice (Hinton & Dickinson, 2007).
Adichie, C. N. (2009, July). The danger of a single story [Video talk]. Retrieved 15 December 2015, from https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en
Arora, G., & Milk, C., (Directors). (2015). Clouds over Sidra [Virtual reality film]. Vrse. Retrieved from http://vrse.com/watch/id/21/
Barone, D. M. (2011). Children’s literature in the classroom engaging lifelong readers. New York: Guilford Press. Retrieved from EBook Library
Begler, E. (1998). Global cultures: The first steps toward understanding. Social Education, 62(5), 272–275.
Bersh, L. C. (2013). The curricular value of teaching about immigration through picture book thematic text sets. The Social Studies, 104(2), 47–56. http://doi.org/10.1080/00377996.2012.720307
Bishop, R. S. (1990). Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom, 6(3). Retrieved from https://www.psdschools.org/webfm/8559
Biwu, S. (2014). Cognitive literary science: Developments and perspectives. Style, 48(3), 411–424,449–450.
Boelens, H., Cherek, J., Tilke, A., & Bailey, N. (2015). Communicating across cultures: Cultural identity issues and the role of the multicultural, multilingual school library within the school community. Presented at the ‘The school library rocks’ IASL 2015, Maastricht, Netherlands.
Borden, L., & Drummond, A. (2005). The journey that saved Curious George: the true wartime escape of Margret and H.A. Rey. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Bosacki, S., & Wilde Astington, J. (2001). Theory of mind in preadolescence: Relations between social understanding and social competence. Social Development, 8(2), 237–255. http://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9507.00093
Botelho, M. J., & Rudman, M. K. (2009). Critical multicultural analysis of children’s literature: mirrors, windows, and doors. New York: Routledge.
Broadway, F. S., & Conkle, D. M. (2011). The power of illustrations in multicultural picture books: Unfolding visual literacy. In L. A. Smolen & R. A. Oswald (Eds.), Multicultural literature and response: Affirming diverse voices (pp. 67–94). Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited. Retrieved from EBook Library
Cai, M. (2002). Defining multicultural literature. In Multicultural literature for children and young adults: reflections on critical issues (pp. 3–8). Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.
Claasz, A. (2014). Contemporary realistic fiction for young adults. ACCESS, 28(2), 50–57.
Colbert-Lewis, D., & Colbert-Lewis, S. (2013). The role of teacher-librarians in encouraging library use by multicultural patrons. In C. Smallwood & K. Becnel (Eds.), Library services for multicultural patrons: strategies to encourage library use (pp. 73–81). Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc.
Constine, J. (2015, February 1). Virtual reality, the empathy machine. Retrieved 14 December 2015, from http://techcrunch.com/2015/02/01/what-it-feels-like/
Cooperative Children’s Book Center. (2015, February 24). Children’s books by and about people of color. Retrieved 17 December 2015, from http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp
Cornett, C. E. (2007). Integrating the arts. In Creating meaning through literature and the arts : an integration resource for classroom teachers (3rd ed., pp. 94–134). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice-Hall.
Cottrell Boyce, F. (2011). The unforgotten coat. Somerville, Mass: Candlewick Press.
Cox, R., & Schaetzel, K. (2007). A preliminary study of pre-service teachers as readers in Singapore: Prolific, functional, or detached? Language Teaching Research, 11(3), 301–317. http://doi.org/10.1177/1362168807077562
Cremin, T., Mottram, M., Bearne, E., & Goodwin, P. (2008). Exploring teachers’ knowledge of children’s literature. Cambridge Journal of Education, 38(4), 449–464. http://doi.org/10.1080/03057640802482363
Crossan, S. (2011). The weight of water. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Djikic, M., & Oatley, K. (2014). The art in fiction: From indirect communication to changes of the self. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 8(4), 498–505. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0037999
Djikic, M., Oatley, K., Zoeterman, S., & Peterson, J. B. (2009). Defenseless against art? Impact of reading fiction on emotion in avoidantly attached individuals. Journal of Research in Personality, 43(1), 14–17. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2008.09.003
Doll, C., & Garrison, K. (2013). Voices of experience: Promoting acceptance of other cultures. In J. C. Naidoo & S. P. Dahlen (Eds.), Diversity in youth literature: opening doors through reading (pp. 3–15). Chicago, Ill: ALA-Ed.
Duren, E. B. (2000). Critical multiculturalism & racism in children’s literature. Multicultural Education, 7(3), 16–19.
Ehrlich, H. (2015, March 5). The diversity gap in children’s publishing, 2015 [Web Log]. Retrieved 13 December 2015, from http://blog.leeandlow.com/2015/03/05/the-diversity-gap-in-childrens-publishing-2015/
Elizabeth, T., & Selman, R. L. (2012). The role of social development in elementary school curricula: Past, present, and future. Saperstein Associates. Retrieved from http://www.sapersteinassociates.com/downloads/2012_Elizabeth_and_Selman_SD_Whitepaper.pdf
Figueroa-Sánchez, M. (2008). Building emotional literacy: Groundwork to early learning. Childhood Education, 84(5), 301–304.
Gomm, R. J. (2012). Content analysis of 50 picture books for Latino immigrant children: Implications for supportive bibliotherapy. Brigham Young University. Retrieved from http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3939&context=etd
Gorski, P. C. (2011, May 20). Equity and social justice from the inside-out: Ten commitments of a multicultural educator [Web Log]. Retrieved 15 December 2015, from http://www.ideas-idees.ca/blog/equity-and-social-justice-inside-out-ten-commitments-multicultural-educator
Hadaway, N. L., & Young, T. A. (2011). Supporting English language learners’ literacy development with culturally relevant books. In L. A. Smolen & R. A. Oswald (Eds.), Multicultural literature and response: Affirming diverse voices (pp. 286–308). Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited. Retrieved from EBook Library
Hamilton, R. S. (2015, August). Generating empathy through virtual reality [Web Log]. Retrieved 14 December 2015, from http://www.thespace.org/news/view/rachel-segal-hamilton-virtual-reality-empathy-amnesty
Hinton, K., & Dickinson, G. K. (2007). Integrating multicultural literature in libraries and classrooms in secondary schools. Columbus, Ohio: Linworth Pub. Retrieved from EBook Library
Hope, J. (2007). Flightlines: exploring early readers for children about the refugee experience. FORUM, 49(3), 289. http://doi.org/10.2304/forum.2007.49.3.289
International Baccalaureate Organisation. (n.d.). How IB is different. Retrieved 17 December 2015, from http://www.ibo.org/benefits/why-the-ib-is-different/
Johnson, D. R. (2012). Transportation into a story increases empathy, prosocial behavior, and perceptual bias toward fearful expressions. Personality and Individual Differences, 52(2), 150–155. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2011.10.005
Kidd, D. C., & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Science, 342(6156), 377–380. http://doi.org/10.1126/science.1239918
Kim, B. S. K., Greif Green, J. L., & Klein, E. F. (2006). Using storybooks to promote multicultural sensitivity in elementary school children. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 34(4), 223–234.
Kimmel, S., Garrison, K., & Forest, D. (2015). ‘Immigrants of us all’: Experiencing migration and movement through Batchelder Award-winning translated books. New Review of Children’s Literature and Librarianship, 21(2), 113–132. http://doi.org/10.1080/13614541.2015.1078621
Lai, T. (2011). Inside out & back again. New York: Harper.
La Marca, S. (2003). The enabling adult: The role of the teacher-librarian in creating a reading environment (PhD Thesis). University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.
Lewis, T. (2015, February 3). Samsung Gear VR: Virtual reality tech may have nasty side effects. Retrieved 14 December 2015, from http://www.livescience.com/49669-virtual-reality-health-effects.html
Lombard, J. (2008). Drita, my homegirl. New York: Puffin Books.
Lowery, R. M. (2011). Representations no representation: Exploring Middle East children’s literature. In L. A. Smolen & R. A. Oswald (Eds.), Multicultural literature and response: Affirming diverse voices (pp. 267–283). Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited. Retrieved from EBook Library
Marcoux, E. (2009). Diversity and the teacher-librarian. Teacher Librarian, 36(3), 6–7.
Masuda, A. M., & Ebersole, M. M. (2011). The journey continues: Exploring the literature of Asian and Pacific Island cultures. In L. A. Smolen & R. A. Oswald (Eds.), Multicultural literature and response: Affirming diverse voices (pp. 154–193). Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited. Retrieved from EBook Library
McNamee, A., & Mercurio, M. L. (2007). Who cares? How teachers can scaffold children’s ability to care: a case for picture books. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 9(1).
McTigue, E., Douglass, A., Wright, K. L., Hodges, T. S., & Franks, A. D. (2015). Beyond the story map: Inferential comprehension via character perspective. The Reading Teacher, 69(1), 91–101. http://doi.org/10.1002/trtr.1377
Mendoza, J., & Reese, D. (2001). Examining multicultural picture books for the early childhood classroom: possibilities and pitfalls. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 3(2).
Mestre, L. (2009). Culturally responsive instruction for teacher-librarians. Teacher Librarian, 36(3), 8–12.
Montgomery, P., & Maunders, K. (2015). The effectiveness of creative bibliotherapy for internalizing, externalizing, and prosocial behaviors in children: A systematic review. Children and Youth Services Review, 55, 37–47. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.05.010
Nikolajeva, M. (2012). Reading other people’s minds through word and image. Children’s Literature in Education, 43(3), 273–291. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-012-9163-6
O’Sullivan, E. (2004). Internationalism, the universal child and the world of children’s literature. In P. Hunt (Ed.), International companion encyclopedia of children’s literature (2nd ed., pp. 13–25). London ; New York: Routledge. Retrieved from EBook Library
Oswald, R. A., & Smolen, L. A. (2011). Introduction to multicultural literature. In L. A. Smolen & R. A. Oswald (Eds.), Multicultural literature and response: Affirming diverse voices (pp. 1–15). Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited. Retrieved from EBook Library
Park, L. S. (2010). A long walk to water: based on a true story. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Preus, M. (2010). Heart of a samurai: based on the true story of Nakahama Manjiro. New York: Amulet Books.
Riahinia, N., Azimi, A., & Seify, S. (2010). Librarians’ participation in bibliotherapy treatment of distressed students. In M. Kocójowa (Ed.), Biblioteki, informacja, książka: interdyscyplinarne badania i praktyka w XXI wieku (Vol. 7, pp. 484–491). Kraków: Wydaw: ePublikacje Instytutu INiB Uniwersytet Jagielloński. Retrieved from http://skryba.inib.uj.edu.pl/wydawnictwa/e07/n-riahinia.pdf
Rider, N. A. (2013). The perils of empathy: Holocaust narratives, cognitive studies and the politics of sentiment. Holocaust Studies, 19(3), 43–72.
Robinson, J. A. (2013). Critical approaches to multicultural children’s literature in the elementary classroom: Challenging pedagogies of silence. New England Reading Association Journal, 48(2), 43–51,88.
Selman, R. L., Jaquette, D., & Lavin, D. R. (1977). Interpersonal awareness in children: Toward an integration of developmental and clinical child psychology. The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 47(2), 264–274.
Short, K., & Fox, D. L. (2003). The complexity of cultural authenticity in children’s literature: Why the debates really matter. In D. L. Fox & K. G. Short (Eds.), Stories matter: the complexity of cultural authenticity in children’s literature. Urbana, Ill: National Council of Teachers of English.
Singer, J. Y., & Smith, S. A. (2003). The potential of multicultural literature: Changing understanding of self and others. Multicultural Perspectives, 5(2), 17–23. http://doi.org/10.1207/S15327892MCP0502_4
Smolen, L. A., & Oswald, R. A. (Eds.). (2011). Multicultural literature and response: Affirming diverse voices. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited. Retrieved from EBook Library
Smolen, L. A., Oswald, R. A., & Jenkins, S. (2011). Integrating multicultural literature into the curriculum. In L. A. Smolen & R. A. Oswald (Eds.), Multicultural literature and response: Affirming diverse voices (pp. 17–57). Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited. Retrieved from EBook Library
Sutherland, A. (n.d.). The limits of virtual reality: Debugging the empathy machine. Retrieved 14 December 2015, from http://docubase.mit.edu/lab/case-studies/the-limits-of-virtual-reality-debugging-the-empathy-machine/
Triplett, C. F., & Buchanan, A. (2005). Book talk: Continuing to rouse minds and hearts to life. Reading Horizons, 46(2), 63–75.
Tschida, C. M., Ryan, C. L., & Ticknor, A. S. (2014). Building on windows and mirrors: Encouraging the disruption of ‘single stories’ through children’s literature. Journal of Children’s Literature, 40(1), 28–39.