Critical Multicultural Analysis of Children's Literature: Mirrors, Windows, and Doors (2009) by Maria Jose Botelho and Masha Kabakow Rudman. New York, NY: Routledge Press.

January 2014

 

 

I decided that in the spring of 2014 I want to teach again.  Since my tenure is housed within Curriculum and Instruction, I asked if I could teach LITED 3121: Advanced Literature.  In preparation for this course, I have read copious articles, worked with Farah Kashef to make sure the course has embedded technology, and interacted with Shuaib and Sohyun Meacham who are also working with this course.  The course text that we inherited was this one. As I began to read it, I was fascinated with the powerful research; the emphasis on critical race, class, and gender theory; and endless examples of multicultural children's literature.  The book prominently featured the work of our very own senior professor, Mingshui Cai, and referenced an article by Shuaib Meacham.  I was truly proud that this was a text that showcased the talents of our professors at the University of Northern Iowa. 

 

As I continued to read the book, it brought back memories of my masters and doctoral work in which we spent many academic conversations about the construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction of texts as a form of critical analysis.  As I read the book, it was a lively and engaging academically rigorous and conceptually astute text.  I enjoyed it immensely, but as I reflected I thought about what age I was and how many years of teaching I had completed by the time I could tackle such concepts.  Based on this interpretation, I decided this was not the best book for my course, but an ideal reference text for me as the professor.

 

The book contained an interesting chapter about the gender conformity of Cinderella stories as well as a chapter that focused on the sociopolitical aspects of African American hair and hair care.  In addition to these theme-based chapters, the book focused on literature pertaining to race with a specific emphasis on Mexican American ethnicity and culture.  There was a healthy debate pertaining to the definition of multicultural verses multiethnic literature.  The authors stated that literature is a powerful medium for understanding the world and that the role of multicultural literature is to emphasize cultural authenticity; therefore, the literature should accurately portray the history, customs, values, and language of a particular cultural group.  Another role of multicultural literature is to improve self-concepts since readers would be connected to literature that reflects their own ethnic culture and background. An additional role of multicultural literature is to promote understanding among cultures because it extends students' knowledge about parallel cultures by exposing them to the differences and similarities between their cultures and other groups.  Multicultural literature should be viewed as an equalizer in shaping the canon of children's literature and should not be pitted as the dominant verses the dominated culture.  Teachers are encouraged not only to diversify their classroom libraries for mirror (reflection of self), window (views of others), and door (interactions between self and others) opportunities, but to also expose students to critique as they engage in discourse about the characters, content, and context. My objective as I teach the Advanced Literature course is to provide the preservice teachers the tools necessary so they can replicate these practices in their future classrooms.