Multicultural Literature Survey. Allison Jenkins LS 5903 Vardell Summer 2006. Multicultural Literature.
LS 5903 Vardell
Children not only need to read literature that they can find themselves depicted within, but they need to reach beyond the confines of their own culture to experience others as well. "Children need the opportunity to view issues from a variety of perspectives, to think critically about social constraints, and to engage in decisions that result in action. They need to understand concepts from various perspectives and deal with issues of oppression and human rights.“ (Pang, et al.) By reading multicultural literature and opening oneself up to other possibilities, it helps foster feelings of tolerance and understanding. Multicultural literature helps children build their view of themselves and the variety of those around them.
3.15% Asian American
1.31% African American
0.39% Native American
0.03% Pacific Islander
0.59% Other Race
1.40% Two or More Races
German author Cornelia Funke is the most popular international author surveyed. Many of her books are available in both print and compact disc formats. Though she has a significantly lower number of titles than Mem Fox, her fantasy novels remain young readers’ favorites. Fox also shows strong circulation records, but only a few of her titles circulate on a regular basis. Many others are overlooked. Though David Almond’s books have been recognized by the Michael L. Printz Award committee, his books are ignored by the library’s younger patrons.
All book jacket images were taken from the Colleyville OPAC.
Angela Johnson has the highest number of circulations among the selected African American authors. Her books include young adult and juvenile novels, as well as picture books. Her picture book, I Dream of Trains, and Christopher Paul Curtis’s Newbery Medal winner, Bud, Not Buddy, have circulated more than any other African American title. Jerry Pinkney also has a large number of titles that circulate well. As both author and illustrator, he has developed many picture books and non-fiction titles for children.
Despite the limited number of selected Hispanic titles, the library’s collection includes many of the popular titles and award winners. Well-known author, Pam Muñoz Ryan only has a handful of titles within the collection. Esperanza Rising was a Bluebonnet Award Nominee in 2003 and the 2002 Pura Belpré Award Winner. Another one of her juvenile fiction titles, Becoming Naomi León was one of this year’s Pura Belpré Honor Books. Two of Gary Soto’s picture books, including Chato’s Kitchen and Chato and the Party Animals were Pura Belpré Award winners for illustration.
The library has a very small selection of Native American books and has no titles by Native American author, Cynthia Leitich Smith. Almost half of Joseph Bruchac’s titles have never circulated. The most popular titles include the Caldecott Medal winner, The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses, and the juvenile novel, Skeleton Man. This collection of titles are vastly overlooked and go unnoticed. The library should acquire more Native American titles and promote them using displays throughout the children’s collection. Recommended reading lists could be developed to guide readers toward Native American literature.
The titles by the selected Asian American authors circulate fairly well and there is a large diversity among racial ethnicities. Laurence Yep and Janet Wong focus on Chinese American literature, while Linda Sue Park creates Korean American characters and Allen Say concentrates on Japanese literature. These authors choose to focus on the various cultural groups that make up Asians and Asian Americans. Their stories are not only limited to American settings, but travel back to the culture’s original country.
The library does not own any titles by inclusive author, Michael Wilhoite. Inclusive literature makes up the lowest percentage of the selected multicultural titles. With only fourteen titles, the youth services collection has very few books on characters with disabilities and gay or lesbian characters. Because of the conservative community it serves, the library is especially careful about which children’s titles it selects that focus on homosexuality or alternative families. This prejudicial selection, however, limits young readers’ exposure to alternative lifestyles, and perhaps their own.
Based on the results of the multicultural literature survey, the Colleyville Public Library has a long way to go in providing its youngest patrons with a diverse and authentic youth services collection. It was found that out of the twenty-four possible multicultural authors the library has titles by twenty-two of the selected authors. No books are owned by the Native American author, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and the inclusive author, Michael Wilhoite. Between the 22 selected authors, there were 179 items, which includes duplicate copies and books on compact disc. Of those items, the library's collection consists of only 142 unique titles. In comparison to the 15,390 volumes in the Youth Services collection, the selected multicultural titles make up a fraction of the books on the shelves. They make up a dismal 0.92 percent of the total items in the children's collection.
Circulation statistics were acquired and based on a one year period beginning on July 1, 2005 and running through July 24, 2006. The circulation statistics are slightly better than the library's holdings. Of the 61,217 circulations within the children's collection, 958 of those were multicultural titles. The percentage of circulations for the selected books in comparison to the total number of circulations comes out to 1.56 percent. The low circulation and title numbers are partially justified because the library has not even been open for three years. The youth services librarian is in the process of building up the children's and young adult collections. There are numerous award winners, honor books, and nominees that the library is still lacking. As funding allows, the librarian is attempting to fill in these gaps.
With three authors and 346 circulations, the selected international authors have circulated more frequently than any other culture. Cornelia Funke's fantasy novels and picture books make her a popular choice among Colleyville's young readers. Her novel, Inkheart has circulated an astounding sixty times. The children's collection has more Mem Fox titles than any other author. Her nineteen picture books circulate almost as well as Funke's. In turn, the Native American titles circulate the least. With only three of the four selected authors, the Colleyville Public Library's eighteen books have only been checked out sixty-three times. Though the collection contains numerous Joseph Bruchac titles, almost half of them have never circulated in the previous year.
Keeping in mind the city's racial makeup, the multicultural titles that circulate the most (aside from the international books) are those that correspond to the highest minority percentages. The materials depicting Asian Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics or Latinos have the next highest circulation records. In turn, the city has a very low Native American population, which correlates with the disappointing circulation statistics for the past year. However, multicultural literature is not written solely for the ethnic group it portrays. Sandra S. Yamate states, "When it comes to multicultural children's books, a dangerous stereotype exists. This stereotype insists that multicultural books are only intended for the particular racial or ethnic group represented." (105) This is an unhealthy notion and stereotype that limits children from experiencing cultures other than their own.
By reading literature that focuses on one ethnicity, children develop a distorted and homogenous view of the world. Multicultural literature helps break down these barriers and provide young readers with a more accurate representation of the world's population. Even though the Colleyville Public Library services a population, in which the majority of patrons are Caucasian, does not mean that it should not provide a balanced and diverse children's collection. Though the circulation statistics and titles lists appear limited, one should keep in mind that the survey only encompasses a select list of authors and books. Overall, the Colleyville Public Library offers its patrons a fairly diverse collection, especially in young adult fiction.
However, my first recommendation for strengthening and building a more comprehensive collection would be to purchase all the award winners and honor books for those given by the American Library Association. This includes, but is not limited to, the Pura Belpré Award, the Batchelder Award, and the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. By using these award lists as collection development tools, the library will be able to add authentic and quality titles to their collection. In addition to these awards, the librarian should utilize the selection resources known for promoting multicultural literature, such as Bookbird and School Library Journal. Also, by browsing publishers' catalogs, the library will be able to locate appropriate books to add to its collection. Then the librarian should focus on building up the inclusive literature within the library, since this is the area with the fewest amounts of titles.
Finally, the library should work to promote the multicultural literature it already owns. By creating recommended reading lists, patrons can easily locate multicultural award winners and books based on a specific culture or ethnicity. Setting up displays throughout the children's section and in the main entryway of the library will attract the patrons' attention. The key is placing the books in plain sight and making them easily accessible. Patrons are always asking for reading suggestions. This provides the youth services librarian the opportunity to booktalk the multicultural titles within the children's collection on a one-on-one basis. The Youth Services department can also incorporate multiculturalism into its programs. By offering multilingual story times, children can be introduced to various cultures and languages. It provides the chance to dispel the stereotypes and preconceived notions about certain cultures. It allows children to ask or address any questions or concerns they may have about a foreign custom. A family craft time could be arranged, so long as the librarian researches the cultural significance of the craft and does not stereotype cultural groups with projects, such as dream catchers and piñatas. In addition to the story times and family programs, the library can participate in annual cultural events, such as El Día de Los Niños: El D Día de Los Libros. The idea is to get the children in the community to actively participate and be exposed to cultures other than their own.
Working at the Colleyville Public Library, I have always had trouble finding the required reading for my classes. I had assumed that this was because the library is only two years old and still has a very young collection. However, when conducting the survey of the circulation records, I was shocked by how low the percentage of multicultural books was and how many award winners are missing from the children's collection. I feel that by promoting the collection the library already has and supplementing it with multicultural programming will boost the circulation statistics for the children's collection. Also, though the survey provides a general overview, it is difficult to determine how many multicultural titles actually make up the children’s collection. It has helped point out to me the cultural groups that need the greatest attention and work, in order to build a more balanced collection. It has offered a great starting point for multiculturalism.
Colleyville Public Library. 2006. Library.Solution PAC. http://www.youseemore.com/Colleyville (Accessed July 24, 2006).
Pang, V.O., C. Colvin, M. Tran, and R. Barba. 1992. Beyond chopsticks and dragons: Selecting Asian-American literature for children. The Reading Teacher 46 (3): 216-23.
Wikipedia. 2006. Colleyville, Texas. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colleyville,_Texas (Accessed July 24, 2006).
Yamate, Sandra S. 1997. Asian Pacific American children’s literature: Expanding perceptions about who Americans are. In Using Multiethnic Literature in the K-8 Classroom, ed. Violet J. Harris, 95-128. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc.