Today we welcome Anthony Garcia, a writer for the Online Graduate Programs website, with a thought-provoking article about why it is so important to ensure children have access to a diverse array of multicultural/cross-cultural books.
Anthony recently completed his graduate education in English Literature. A New Mexico native, he currently resides and writes in Seattle, Washington. He writes primarily about education, travel, literature, and American culture.
Educating people through literacy can last a lifetime, because it allows for empowerment. If someone can read information, they can continue to learn and educate themselves for a lifetime.
Have you ever run across someone who was woefully ignorant of diversity? It is a shame that so many people cannot appreciate the value of other cultures and be interested in the different ways social groups all over the world operate. Perhaps these people would have been more interested in learning about and appreciating different cultures if they were more literate and could assess information accordingly.
Not all of us can attend graduate programs or are even exposed to reading as children. However, it is the responsibility of educated people to share the gift of education, empowering others to learn.
One of the best ways to help others through literacy is to begin sharing books in childhood. It can be difficult to expose children to new viewpoints, especially in areas where there are not significant minority populations. However, using books is a good start to combating ignorance. If children are exposed to other viewpoints, it raises levels of literacy, but also helps them to see similarity, rather than focus on the issues which divide as adults.
Parents and educators are aware that children need to read and to be read to, and should try to pick up books that focus on other cultures, nations and groups. Books about other countries are easy to find in any local library, and children will enjoy seeing pictures of children all over the world who, in some cases, are actually quite similar to them. Children can also learn about the foods that other cultures enjoy and perhaps prepare some of them as part of a class project. Another option is to have students read about the various holidays that are celebrated all over the world and enjoy a class party!
Besides books that just discuss the facts and figures about different countries, if can be fun to explore the folklore of various groups. Most civilizations have legends and fables describing how the world began and the origins of evil. It is interesting to compare all accounts and see how they are similar and different. Educating others through literacy should involve discussion for the most impactful education possible.
Reading culturally diverse books to children is important because it broadens their horizons while increasing literacy. Through reading about the different ways people consider similar situations, children learn to be aware of the validity of others’ cultures and opinions. It is much easier to influence a child’s opinion of the world than it is an adult’s because they have fewer preconceived notions about the world around them. Therefore, the stories that we share with children can have impactful influence on their development and their value systems as adults.
Perhaps if adults and educators made reading culturally diverse books to children a priority, there would be fewer misunderstandings in our nation and world. Children can grow up learning to think things through from multiple viewpoints, and are able to embrace the ways that people are alike, instead of focusing on things that might divide them. Children exposed to literature and stories from other cultures may be able to enjoy and learn from dissimilarities, instead of criticizing or condemning them.
Perhaps by doing something as simple as picking up a book, our children can grow up to be more well-rounded and compassionate, and can use their education to reach out to others and share.