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Choosing Good Books:

Guidelines for Choosing Multicultural Books

Multicultural books can open the world to children. By introducing young readers to new people and places, they can begin to see similar human qualities that are common bonds between all people and discover the wonderful differences that distinguish one culture from another.

Check the Content

When choosing multicultural books, look for stories that include a variety of cultures with different family compositions. Books that include single parents, grandparents who play key roles in nurturing children, and extended families who share a home and each other's lives are among the variety that are available.

Choose books with minority characters who are independent thinkers and who face challenges and solve problems. Consider what kinds of characters make good role models, such as characters who resist moral or social compromise. These characters may achieve success through actions that are accepted and valued by their communities. They won't give up a behavior held dear by family or culture to "make it" in the world.

Avoid books that have characters with stereotypical roles and behaviors. Minority characters do not have to be "the best" at something to be valued and accepted by the majority group. For example, a character does not have to be an extremely talented athlete to win the game or be unnaturally forgiving when friends are unkind.

The following are some quick points to keep in mind as you look for appropriate multicultural books:

  • Choose books with strong plots and well-developed characters.
  • Look for accuracy in stories about modern-day experiences, historical fiction, and all nonfiction.
  • Look for books with culturally based themes and books about realistic, everyday events and activities that include characters from diverse groups.
  • Consider your own views about the author's culture and experiences.

Illustrations and Photographs

Choose books with illustrations that depict people from different races in different ways. Look for drawings of characters that suitably convey skin color and facial details. Merely darkening or lightening a character's skin color to indicate that he or she is African American, Asian, or Hispanic is inappropriate. And avoid books that use stereotypical caricatures of a group's physical features.

Choose books with photographs that accurately portray present-day events. Captions on all photographs should be correct and specific. For example, an appropriate caption for a photograph of a city might read, "Harare, Zimbabwe," not the more general "Africa."

Source: Reading Is Fundamental

Guidelines for Choosing Multicultural Books