|Through an exploration of stereotypes in children’s picture books such
from Disney’s Princess Collection, students identify the limited view established
in these fictional worlds. Next, students compare these stereotyped representations
to more diverse portrayals in matching texts, such as The Paper Bag Princess or
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. Finally, students use their
promote diversity by creating paired books or text sets that match stereotypical
with balanced and diverse texts. Students create bookmarks that encourage
to question the assumptions of stereotyped books and to seek out matching,
| From Theory to Practice
|Beverly Busching and Betty Ann
Slesinger explain that literature is a “repository of cultural values”;
thus, by reading widely, students are able to tap that repository and become
more conscious of their own culture and that of others. Busching and Slesinger
need to see their own lives interpreted and validated in the books they read,
and they also need to see the wide panoply of humanity, not just to watch these
characters enact their lives, but also to see into their lives. Through
books, students can develop strong bonds with diverse individuals they would
be unlikely to meet in their actual lives, or could never know well” (146-47).
asking students to explore texts in their libraries for stereotypes and balanced
representations of cultural values,
this lesson bridges the transformation and decision-making/social action
approaches to multicultural education outlined by James A. Banks. Banks
identifies the transformation approach as one that reshapes the canon and
curriculum, so that students explore different perspectives. The decision-making
and social action approach which extends the transformative curriculum by
enabling students to pursue projects and activities that allow
them to take personal, social, and civic actions related to the concepts, problems,
and issues they have studied (24–27).
Through their exploration of books
in their libraries, students begin to identify and expand the readings in their
canon, following a transformation approach. As
expand their readings through persuasive bookmarks, students extend their
transformation by taking actions based on their discoveries. In the end, the
lesson goes beyond exploring and seeing the stereotypes to taking action to
help others see and question the inequities of many texts collected in our
Banks, James A. An Introduction to Multicultural Education. Reedham,
MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1994.
Busching, Beverly, and Betty Ann Slesinger. 2002. “It’s Our World
Too”: Socially Responsive Learners in Middle School Language Arts. Urbana,
IL: NCTE, 2002.
- discuss and analyze various stereotypes in our society, especially as shown
in children’s literature.
- analyze library resources independently or in small groups
for evidence of stereotypes.
- locate matching resources that provide a diverse and balanced view of the
- participate in a social action activity to encourage others to read
which show diverse and balanced views.
- Five to six picture books that focus on stereotypical images of gender, ethnicity,
or race. Possibilities include the following:
- Rapunzel by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
(North South Books, 2000)
- Travels of Babar by Jean De Brunhoff
(Random House, 1937)
- The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
(Random House, 1965)
- The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop
- Disney’s Princess Collection (Hal Leonard, 2002)
- Cinderella: A Fairy Tale by Charles Perrault
(North South books, 2002)
- Snow White and Rose Red: A Grimm’s Fairy Tale by Jacob and Wilhelm
Grimm (Rudolf Steiner, 2000)
- 5-6 print text examples of culturally diverse texts. Possibilities
include the following:
- Sam Johnson
and the Blue Ribbon Quilt, a story of a man quilting, by Lisa
Campbell Ernst (HarperTrophy, 1992)
- Sam and the Lucky Money, a story of Chinese New Year, by
Karen Chinn (Lee & Low, 1997)
- Apple Pie Fourth of July, a story about a Chinese American family
on the 4th of July, by Janet S. Wong (Harcourt, 2002)
- Luka’s Quilt, a story of a
grandmother and granddaughter in Hawaii, by Georgia Guback (Greenwillow, 1994)
- Mufaro’s Beautiful
Daughters, an African Tale, by John Steptoe (Amistad, 1987)
- Too Many Tamales, a
Latino family’s Christmas story, by Gary Soto (Puffin, 1996)
- The Other Side,
a story of friendship, by Jacqueline Woodson (Putnam, 2001)
- Dumpling Soup, a story
of a Hawaiian family’s New Years, by Jama Kim Rattigan (Megan Tingley, 1998)
- Raven’s Light: A
Myth from the People of the Northwest Coast, retold by Susan Hand Shetterly (Atheneum,
- Promoting Diverse Reading in the Library Assignment Sheet
- Sample Bookmark
- Bookmark Rubric
- Printing Press Layouts
- (optional) Letter
Generator, used in an extension activity
- Chart paper and markers
- Supplies to decorate bookmarks (colored pens, pencils, magazines for clipping
images, and so forth)
Instruction and Activities
- Schedule time for your students to research and collect books in your school
library (or at a nearby elementary school or public library). Coordinate
with the librarian, who can share additional resources and suggestions with
Alternately, students can analyze home book collections.
- Gather your examples of stereotypical and more diverse examples of children’s
literature (see the lists above).
- Make copies of the assignment
sheet, rubric, and Printing
- Print a copy of the sample
bookmark on a color printer if possible.
- Test the ReadWriteThink
Printing Press and, if you’ll be completing the extension, the Letter
Generator on your computers to familiarize
yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed.
the plug-in from the technical
- Share the three well-known Disney stories, Sleeping Beauty, Snow
White and Cinderella (or a similar collection of texts).
- As students are likely to be familiar with the stories, ask them to focus
on the illustrations.
- As students share observations on the text, note their comments on the
board or on chart paper.
Note that you’ll return to this list in later sessions, so recording your findings
on chart paper is preferable if it’s likely that information on the board
will be erased.
- Ask questions to help students discuss and evaluate the images included
in the text. The following questions can help guide your discussion:
- What do women look like?
- What kind of work do women do?
- What do men look like?
- What kind of work do men do?
- How do women and men interact with each other?
- What other features do you notice about the characters? Think about
race, ethnicity, religion, class, age, and so forth.
- With your basic observations recorded, ask students to comment on how
diverse and balanced the representations in the book are. Note their comments
on the board or on chart paper.
- Using the comments you’ve recorded as a basis, create a list of the characteristics
that would demonstrate that a text is examining is
or isn’t stereotyped.
- Ask students to explore a more diverse text in detail. Divide students
into several small groups and give each a picture book to analyze. Possible
books to explore include The Paper Bag Princess or Mufaro’s Beautiful
Ask students to consider the same guiding questions used above to examine the
text and pictures:
- What do women look like?
- What kind of work do women do?
- What do men look like?
- What kind of work do men do?
- How do women and men interact with each other?
- What other features do you notice about the characters? Think about race,
ethnicity, religion, class, age, and so forth.
- Allow students the rest of the session to work on their analysis. Explain
that they will present and discuss their findings with the rest of the class
during the next session. Each group will have up to five minutes to share
- Circulate among students as they work on this project. The purpose
of this activity is for students to practice the skills that they’ll use
focused, individual examination of the texts; therefore, provide
on the analytical skills that they’ll need to use in later sessions. Likewise,
make suggestions for issues that students may be missing in their observations
of the texts.
- Remind students of the goals of their group analysis.
Answer any questions students have. Give students five to ten minutes to make
last-minute preparations and to practice their presentations.
- Have groups present their findings, sticking closely to
the five-minutes-per-group guideline that you’ve established. As students
work, ask them to connect to
the list of characteristics created during the previous session.
- Ask students
to listen for details from the presentations that help prove whether the
texts stereotype gender roles, race, ethnicity, religion,
class, age, and
- Once all presentations are complete, ask students to point
out details from the pieces that suggest whether the books stereotype
Make a list of these characteristics on the board or on chart paper.
Again, you will return to this list in later sessions, so chart paper
preferred if your board is likely to be erased between sessions.
the end of class, arrange the lists into a series of checklist questions
that students can use to analyze texts.
- (Optional) This can be a good opportunity
for a mini-lesson on parallelism. Note how to make sentence structure and
verb tense match as you revise
the brainstormed list into the checklist. Talk aloud as you write
the sentences so that students understand the composing choices that you
positive feedback when students create parallel items for the checklist
- Conclude the session by asking students how considering all these books as
a group influences their ideas: What happens when you consider books that
show stereotypes along side books that show more diverse and balanced representations
or that represent different cultures?
The goal is to identify how together the books can demonstrate a more accurate
and complete picture of people and at the same time can help readers identify
stereotypes and the harm they can do.
Review the checklist of questions that students composed during the previous
class session. Answer any questions, and make any corrections or additions.
- Share the Promoting Diverse Reading in the Library Assignment Sheet with
students, sharing a sample bookmark with students. Explain that the
bookmarks will be tucked inside
books in the library to encourage readers to read accompanying texts and
to urge them to think critically about the images and details in the texts
that they read. Students will need to choose at least two books, but can
focus on more than two books as desired.
- As you discuss
the assignment, explain how the checklist that you’ve compiled can be used
analyze the texts for the project.
- Share the Bookmark Rubric that will be used to evaluate the finished work,
and point out connections between the characteristics represented on the
rubric and the ideas on the checklist.
- Brainstorm a list of kinds of texts
that students can use for this project—biographies, fiction, picture
books, and so on. You might be sure to identify possible focal points such
as books on famous Americans, or books which explore important scientific contributions.
Do not limit students’ explorations to fictional picture books; instead, give
them the chance to investigate representations in a subject area of their own
- Explain how students will access texts for this project. Class sessions
devoted to library time are ideal, but if a library visit is not possible,
be sure that students understand when
find the resources that they are evaluating.
- As preparation for library time, divide students into groups and ask them
to brainstorm information they might include on their bookmarks (a definition
stereotypes, how you can
examples of balanced and diverse literature).
- Conclude the session by having groups share the ideas that they’ve gathered.
Record the suggestions on the board or on chart paper.
- Be sure to emphasize that bookmarks do not need to include all the information
that you’ve identified. The list simply outlines possibilities.
- If desired, students can begin the project immediately, identifying books
from the classroom library or their own book collections to use for the project.
- Review the project and answer any questions students have about the activity.
- Devote this session to free time to explore and collect resources
in the library.
- As students identify texts, encourage them to share their findings with
one another or in small groups.
- Encourage students to ask the librarian for help as necessary.
- After locating books, students can begin drafting their bookmarks. Remind
students that the audience is other students in the school who will pull
one of the books they’ve identified off the shelf. The bookmark’s
goal is to suggest additional books that the person might read and to suggest
that the reader might look for in the books while reading.
- Remind students to return to the list of possible information to include
on the bookmarks from the previous session as they work on their drafts.
- Share the brochure layouts from the Printing
Press Layouts handout so that student can plan ideas for a particular layout.
Students will use two panes from the brochure for their bookmarks.
- If necessary, students can continue working on their rough drafts for homework.
Students should come to the next session ready to create the final published
version of their bookmarks.
Demonstrate the ReadWriteThink
Printing Press for students, showing
the pertinent options. Students will use only two panes of the brochure. Once
printed, cut off the remaining third pane; then fold the bookmark in half and
tape the edges.
Students can decorate the bookmarks with markers, colored pencils, and so forth.
Pictures can be drawn on the bookmarks or students can clip images from
magazines and glue or tape them in place.
Ask students to print at least three copies of their work (one for themselves,
one for you to respond to, and one for the school or public library).
If class resources allow, additional copies can be made to share with interested
students in the class.
- This will be a busy, active session so ensure that students understand
the products they are to submit by the end of the class before releasing
to work on their final copies.
- Allow students the remainder of the class
to print their bookmarks.
- If possible, schedule an additional class session where students can share
their books and bookmarks with the class.
- Focus the project on books that fit a particular event or season. For instance,
you might encourage students to choose books about a particular holiday, with
the goal of sharing a balanced exploration of the holiday by reading additional
texts included on the bookmark. In the same way, you might ask students to
choose books related to a particular unit that you are studying (e.g., the
holocaust, civil rights).
- If students find the library collection is limited in certain areas or are
aware of a particular title that would help make the collection more diverse,
invite them to use the Letter
Generator to write to the librarian, school administration,
or school board. suggesting titles and/or authors to be added to the library.
- Expand the focus on texts to include magazines, videos, and newspapers. Rather
than bookmarks, flyers or longer brochures might be more appropriate for these
- How To Choose The Best Multicultural Books
- From Scholastic’s Instructor, this site includes suggestions on multicultural
books in a variety of genres and spanning multiple cultures as well as resources
on the authors and texts.
- Multicultural Children’s Literature Resources
- This bibliography from Tempe Public Library includes general resources
on multicultural literature and cultural groups as well as links to annual
multicultural children’s and young adult awards.
- Mendoza, Jean, and Debbie Reese. “Examining
Multicultural Picture Books for the Early Childhood Classroom: Possibilities
and Pitfalls.” Early
Childhood Research and Practice 3.2 (Fall 2001).
- This journal article identifies the common pitfalls of selecting children’s
literature and offers advice on using theories of race to select and examine
that literature as teachers.
- Gender Issues in Children’s Literature
- This ERIC Digest contribution includes details on how gender is portrayed
in children’s literature, why gender representation in children’s
literature is significant, what teachers should keep in mind while selecting
books, and how teachers can use children’s literature to promote gender
|For formal assessment, use the Diverse Readings Rubric. Additionally,
you can ask students to freewrite on the following reflective question: As you
examined books for this project, what did you realize
that you didn’t notice before about the resources in your library or about
a particular book that you hadn’t noticed before?
Informal feedback from students who read and respond to students’ bookmarks
and spontaneous discussion of various stereotypes are also valid outcomes.
Provide supportive comments for discussion that reveals recognitions
about how people and cultures are represented in texts.
1 - Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
3 - Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
4 - Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
6 - Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
11 - Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
12 - Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).