June 2003 — Volume 7, Number 1
Multicultural Issues in Literacy Research and Practice
Arlette Ingram Willis, Georgia Earnest Garcia, Rosalinda Barrera & Violet J. Harris, Eds.(2003)
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers
Pp. viii + 309
ISBN 0-8058-3240-8 (paper)
$ 29.95 (Also available in cloth, $69.95)
Multicultural Issues in Literacy Research and Practice explores multicultural issues not only in terms of research, but also in terms of practice. The book aims to explore the complex relation among culture, language, literacy, and identity; to describe and evaluate the development and implementation of curricula, assessments, and materials for students from diverse linguistic, cultural and racial backgrounds; and to explore the implementation of multicultural literacies focusing on pre-service and in-service teachers and teacher education issues.
The first three chapters explore how the literacy development and performance of individual children are affected by their cultural and linguistic identities and the social contexts in which these identities are embedded. In the first chapter, using a case study Eurydice Bouchereau Bauer examines a two-year-old bilingual (German-English) preschooler’s responses to three different genres of picture books: highly predictable and structured one, modern fantasy one, and realistic fiction one. She focuses on the child’s responses to literature read in each language, her use of code switching in her responses, the role that different genres play in the child’s responses, and the child’s different connection choices for comprehension such as from book to book and from her life experiences to books . Bauer’s chapter explores the unexamined topic of bilingual pre-school child’s response lightening the complexity involved in bilingual/tricultural children’s identity constructions and responses to literature.
The second chapter written by Joel Dworin describes a second-grader Spanish English, Mexican American child’s biliterate performance in Spanish and English in a classroom setting. His chapter shows how the teacher helps to create an additive environment, in which Spanish and English literacy both are valued, and how this environment helps the child to further demonstrate his biliteracy.
In chapter three Shuaib Meacham shows how reading ability, culture, and gender impacts on culturally and linguistically diverse children’s literacy experiences in small group instruction while they are working together in a reading project. In order to examine the intersecting relations among cultural norms, gender, reading ability, and small group work “blues idiom” and a jazz metaphor are used. This chapter ends with a suggestion that teachers should be aware of gender and cultural issues when they try to empower students whose voices have been silenced.
The next four chapters describe and evaluate the development and implementation of curricula, assessment, and materials for students from diverse linguistic, cultural and racial backgrounds. [-1-]
Chapter four by Rosary Lalik, LaNette Dellinger, and Richard Druggish presents three case studies of Appalachian children to illustrate the effectiveness of a literacy curriculum which is relevant to Appalachian culture. As students have a chance to integrate their family and their own culture to school literacy activities comfortably, the curriculum empowers students’ confidence to themselves. For teacher educators, this chapter shows the possibility of designing activities and curriculum that will culturally reflect students’ own culture along with meeting students’ literacy needs.
Teresa McCarty and Galena Sells Dick in chapter five reflect the requirement of a democratic education: “curriculum and pedagogy can enable students to see themselves.” (p. 119) The authors show how teachers in the Rough Rock School in the Navajo Nation develop their own assessment and curriculum through critical literacy and collaborative participation in socially meaningful events, such as summer literature camps for the elders, teachers, parents, and children, and study groups for the teachers replacing the postcolonial oppressive practices and materials with bilingual-bicultural literacy materials and practices. For teachers, this empowerment becomes the opportunity to co-construct knowledge and transform attitudes.
In chapter six, combining ethnographic and survey findings Lee Gunderson and Jim Anderson report Chinese-Canadian, Euro-Canadian, and Indo-Canadian immigrant parents’ reactions to the whole-language literacy curriculum and assessment practices used in British Columbia, Canada. They show a dilemma of how a particular curriculum, whole-language, reflects the values of the larger white dominant community conflicting with the values of smaller communities. In this case, immigrant parents from Hong Kong, Twain, and Punjab in India do not “see themselves as partners in their children’s education, and indeed, many of them feel isolated from the school.” (p. 140) As a solution the authors suggest “studying the local community,” (p. 140) and parent-school collaboration such as parent involvement through reading aloud in their first languages.
Rosalinda B. Barrera, Ruth E. Quiroa, and Rebeca Valdivia in chapter seven examine the increased presence of Spanish in Latino picture storybooks written in English. They analyze three popular Latino picture storybooks in terms of how well the authors have addressed the needs of both bilingual-bicultural Spanish-English readers and monolingual-monocultural English readers. Although the use of Spanish in English books can enhance Latino characterization, settings and vocabulary development with increasing loan-words, in some cases it can be problematic for language readers as “Spanish elements will not be integral to a text, but merely token or superficial.” (p. 164) Therefore, the authors suggest the strengthening of the literary quality of Latino children’s book in English.
The last five chapters are about the implementation of multicultural literacy for pre-service, in-service teachers and teacher educators.
In chapter eight Sally Oran shows how pen pal collaboration between nineteen Navajo sixth grade bilingual students, Anglo, monolingual pre-service teachers, and their teachers develops mutual learning creating “third-space”. She reports that the pre-service teachers through struggling to connect and understand students “whose lives were very different from theirs,” (p. 181) observe “how limited and inaccurate knowledge of children’s cultural experiences” (p. 181) restricts teaching.
Chapter nine written by Diane Truscott and Susan Watts-Taffe examines the type of English-as-a-second language (ESL) literacy instruction provided in an elementary instructional setting. After presenting a model of effective ESL literacy practices, they use this model to evaluate how general teachers instruct ESL students. Their results emphasize that instead of “one size fits all” philosophy, teachers should consider “if it fits, wear it” philosophy which requires “tailoring instruction to meet the needs of all children” (p. 199) if there is rich diversity among learners.
Chapter ten written by Robert Rueda and Erminda Garcia displays a researcher-teacher collaboration that empowers bilingual teachers to implement responsive teaching, which is considered as a very effective method due to enabling teachers to identify individual student needs and to change or modify their literacy instruction accordingly. The authors state that the teachers’ belief about bilingualism, literacy, and assessment shape the implementation of the responsive teaching. Their findings underline important issues that teacher educators and researchers should take into account when they attempt to implement multicultural literacy approaches. [-2-]
In chapter eleven, Margaret A. Moore-Hart, Barbara J. Diamond, and John R. Knapp describe and evaluate teachers’ implementation of a multicultural literacy program and its effect on reading, writing performance along with attitudes toward reading, writing, and other cultures in forth-and fifth-grade students. The chapter presents implications not only in terms of research, but also in terms of practice along with several important aspects such as professional development component, cultural attitudes, and the reading and vocabulary test performance of students who participated in the program with those who did not.
In the last chapter, chapter twelve, Frances Levin, Michael Smith, and Dorothy Strickland examine a reader response approach in which they included pre-service and in-service teachers who read multicultural literature and discuss it in small groups. This study shows that for the teachers it is difficulty to change their prejudices when no direction or explicitness occurs. Although both sets of teachers reported that they developed their cultural awareness and benefited from the study group formats much more than by participating in other types of professional development activities, they really did not develop “ethical respect.” (p. 284) The chapter ends with the statement of the authors’ goal: “the development of ethical respect, with the hope of building cross-cultural understanding.” (p. 284)
The book is well organized exploring in depth the complex relation among culture, language, literacy, and identity through presenting different aspects such as reader response, genre, gender, and so forth from different researchers’ views in each chapter. Also, at the end of each chapter with summaries future research topics related to each topic are presented, which enables readers to comprehend the subject well besides making them wonder more about for future development.
Moreover, with a swing from the two-year-old German-English bilingual child’s responses to three different genres of picture books in the first chapter to the teachers’ responses in the last chapter the book presents a wide perspective of multicultural literacy not only in terms of learners, but also in terms of parents, teachers, pre-service teachers, and researchers.
Furthermore, the book is also effective because of reflecting learners who belong to not only different ages, but also belong to different cultural backgrounds such as Navajo, immigrants from Asian countries, German, and Latino learners. Therefore, reader has a chance to observe different cultures facing with different problems in literacy.
In terms of reflecting the effectiveness of collaboration between researchers and teachers to empower bilingual literacy and to design curriculum and assessment materials appropriate to learners’ culture is another good aspect of the book. All details of the studies are well described so that readers can apply easily these methods that facilitate learners’ literacy.
This book can be very beneficial to a wide audience which includes literacy researchers, teacher educators, pre-service and in-service teachers, and policymakers. Teachers can reconsider their teaching methods, techniques and materials comparing with the goals to meet their students’ need in the light of this book; policymakers can reconsider how much their decision accomplishes the students’ needs coming from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds after reading this book; and literacy researchers can focus on the topics for suggested as further research topics in order to create more effective learning atmospheres for multicultural learners in future chapters.
University of Florida
© Copyright rests with authors. Please cite TESL-EJ appropriately.
Editor’s Note: Dashed numbers in square brackets indicate the end of each page for purposes of citation..