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How to Select Culturally Appropriate Reading Material U.S. Department of Education Office of Indian Education Presented by: Donna Sabis-Burns Donna.Sabis-Burns@ed.gov Cathie Martin, Deputy Director Cathie.Martin@ed.gov Workshop Outcomes P urpose of selecting culturally relevant material

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How to Select Culturally Appropriate Reading Material

U.S. Department of Education

Office of Indian Education

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Presented by:Donna Sabis-Burns Donna.Sabis-Burns@ed.govCathie Martin, Deputy DirectorCathie.Martin@ed.gov

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Workshop Outcomes

Purpose of selecting culturally relevant material

Issues in children’s literature for Native children

Tips for selecting and evaluating books

Ideas for home and classroom use of culturally

appropriate material

Example of good books

How to critique books

Activity

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Purpose

According to the 2003 NAEP results, Native American students generally read at a lower level than other listed subgroups.

In order to help motivate Native children to read, cultural appropriate reading material must be considered.

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Purpose

Data:

American Indian/Alaska Native 4th- and 8th-grade students generally score lower than White and Asian/Pacific Islander students on NAEP reading assessments.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of

Educational Progress (NAEP), Reading Assessment, 2003.

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Purpose

Percentage Of Kindergartners Who Can Recognize Letters Of The Alphabet By Race/Ethnicity

SOURCE: Early Childhood Longitudinal study, Kindergarten class of 1998-1999, Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics

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Purpose

Percentage Of Kindergartners Who Can Understand The Beginning Sounds Of Words By Race/Ethnicity

SOURCE: Early Childhood Longitudinal study, Kindergarten class of 1998-1999, Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics

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Purpose

However,

Forty-seven percent of American Indian/Alaska Native 8th-graders read for fun at least one to two times each week.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of

Educational Progress (NAEP), Reading Assessment, 2003.

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Purpose

  • To meet the unique educational and culturally related academic needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives.

To design and meet challenging State

academic content and student academic

achievement standards

To increase young children’s cultural

awareness in Native American literature

To ensure Native American children see

themselves properly represented in books

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Issues in Literature

There are numerous issues on the interpretations, writing, and acceptance of Native American literature.

Within each of these issues, relative criteria can be applied for appropriate book selection.

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Issues in Native Literature

Authenticity of text

Inside vs. Outside author

Offers alternative perspectives

Accuracy of text

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Issues in Native Literature

Based on these issues, how do you select books appropriate to Native American children?

Ask lots of questions!

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Authenticity of Text

Is the story true to the culture?

Is history distorted in such a way as to demean the culture and the achievements of the group represented?

Are Native people depicted living their daily lives as well as taking part in celebrations?

Would a Native child be proud of the book about his/her heritage?

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Inside vs. Outside Author

Is there evidence that the author and illustrator are knowledgeable about the group being presented?

Would a Native child be proud of the book about his/her heritage?

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Offers Alternative Perspective

  • Would a Native child be proud of the book about his/her heritage?
  • Does it take mainstream standards for the Native groups to achieve?
  • Would the book help a child of another ethnicity/culture accept and appreciate the Native group being depicted?
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Accuracy

  • Is accurate information conveyed or is the text misleading or erroneous?
  • Would a Native child be proud of the book about his/her heritage?
  • Are the Native people portrayed only in the past?
  • Is there evidence of “tokenism?” Stereotypes? Overgeneralizations? All look and act alike?
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Important to remember:

You don’t have to be a cultural expert or a specialist in literature to select culturally appropriate books.

Use these skills to integrate culture into all academic areas through appropriate reading material.

Discuss erroneous information with the children as a way of modeling critical thinking.

Not all criteria must be met in order to find a decent book.

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If in doubt….

Use the checklist in your packet to briefly review the chosen books to ensure its appropriateness and cultural relevancy.

Ask a Native parent, community member, or student for their critique of books.

Time permitting, look online for information about the culture represented in the book to give you a little background.

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If in doubt….

Offer opportunities in the classroom to have your students share something about their tribe and traditions.

Avoid the tradition (not thematic) unit approaches to teach about indigenous peoples—it has a tendency to objectify (What other people are taught about as the subject of units?)

Do not limit Native American literature to just November.

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Assisting Teachers

Lack of cultural relevance in the classroom concerns many household members whose children attend public schools. Here are a couple of suggestions to assist teachers:

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Assisting Teachers

  • Question assumptions, including

your own

  • Offer information
  • Act as an ally
  • Review the books/curriculum
  • Position yourself as an expert
  • Tie the culture to the curriculum
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Assisting Teachers

Question assumptions, including your

own

  • They can’t teach what they don’t know.

Offer information

  • Be proactive. Offer information about American Indian culture, history and achievements.
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Assisting Teachers

Act as an ally

  • Introduce yourself to your children’s teachers.
  • Explain how culturally relevant reading material motivates Native students to read, learn, and succeed.
  • Assure teachers that content standards and cultural relevance aren’t mutually exclusive.
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Assisting Teachers

Position yourself as an expert

  • Offer to serve as a resource person in the classroom or library.
  • Suggest culturally relevant classroom activities that compliment the books.
  • Provide the teacher with copies of relevant articles and other books and Native newspapers. 
  • Donate the teacher a list of quality Native books to the classroom. 
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Assisting Teachers

Offer to review the books/curriculum

  • Look through the children’s books.
  • Scan them for stereotypes.
  • Notice the critical places where Native people should be mentioned but aren’t.
  • Make a list of misinformation and omissions.
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Assisting Teachers

Tie the culture to the curriculum

  • Understand that state content standards force teachers to stick to the curriculum. Work within that framework.
  • Ideas to weave culture into the curriculum are endless!
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Home & Classroom Use

There are many ways of adopting culturally appropriate materials at home or in the classroom.

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Home & Classroom Use

Identify types of tales found in Native American folklore

Identify traditional values in Native American folklore

Invite a Native American storyteller into the classroom to share oral traditional literature of the tribal group

Evaluate a historical fiction about Native Americans

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Home & Classroom Use

When teaching a topic, offer an alternative perspective from a Native point of view.

Develop an understanding of author style.

Teach beyond the Thanksgiving theme.

Compare and contrast traditional literature favorites with Native American examples.

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Home & Classroom Use

Use books from various tribes over the

country (over 500)

Have the class develop their own oral

storytelling style.

Use “cultural awareness” friendly

criteria to choose books for your class

as discussed.

Stimulate reflective thinkers.

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Home & Classroom Use

Provide opportunities for discussion

using historically accurate information.

Listen to children’s voices and assumptions

—what alternative perspectives can you offer?

Remember, culturally appropriate books

can be integrated across the curriculum.

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Conclusion

You don’t have to be a cultural expert or a specialist in literature to select culturally appropriate books.

Use these skills to integrate culture into all academic areas through appropriate reading material.

Discuss erroneous information with the children as a way of modeling critical thinking.

Not all criteria must be met in order to find a good book.

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Conclusion

How do you select books appropriate to Native American children?

Ask lots of questions!

  • Authenticity of text
  • Inside vs. Outside author
  • Offers alternative perspectives
  • Accuracy of text
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Contact Information

Donna Sabis-Burns

U.S. Department of Education

Office of Indian Education

400 Maryland Ave.,SW

FOB-6 5W232

Washington, DC 20202

Donna.Sabis-Burns@ed.gov

Cathie Martin

U.S. Department of Education

Office of Indian Education

400 Maryland Ave.,SW

FOB-6 5C152

Washington, DC 20202

Cathie.Martin@ed.gov

U.S. Department of Education

Office of Indian Education

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Disclaimer

The print materials presented in this workshop are provided for your convenience. We believe these materials provide information that is relevant and useful to efforts to improve teaching and learning for Native American students. The opinions expressed in these printed materials, however, do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the Office of Indian Education or the U.S. Department of Education. Also, the inclusion of the materials here do not represent, nor should it be construed or interpreted as, an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any private organization or business.

U.S. Department of Education

Office of Indian Education