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The democratic vision of teaching literature: preschool bilingual children's reading of literature with social justice

By So Jung Kim


In spite of the contributions of previous studies about children’s literature, there is still a startling lack of knowledge about how children’s literature that deals with racial/cultural diversity can be incorporated into preschool and bilingual children’s classrooms. In order to address this gap in the research, this qualitative case study examined how literature with social justice themes can be employed as a tool to help preschool bilingual children develop their emergent notions about racial diversity and social justice. Particularly, this study investigated three research questions: (1) How do the preschool Korean-English bilingual children respond to African American characters in social justice literature? (2) What are the roles of the children’s “creative participation” in reading books? (3) How do literary talks help the children develop their early understandings about racial diversity and social justice? As part of a nineteen-month longitudinal study, this study focused on six, five-year-old Korean bilingual children’s reading of social justice literature at Ms. Park’s classroom at the Korean Language School (KLS) in mid-western US. The data were collected by (1) audio- recordings, (2) open-ended interviews, (3) children’s artifacts, and (4) observational field notes, and analyzed by thematic analysis and sociolinguistic analysis. One of the findings was that the children exhibited their resistance to black characters, and their responses were shaped within social and cultural surroundings such as (1) the prevailing attitudes of their communities, (2) white-dominant surroundings, (3) media and parental influences, (4) negative images of the color black, and (5) difficulty in identifying themselves with the main characters. This study also found that, while exchanging responses and thoughts with peers and the teacher, the children were able to develop their critical attitudes about different skin colors around them, and to explore their emergent notions about difficult social issues including race and discrimination. The findings of this study suggest that social justice literature has the potential to help young bilingual children reduce their biased attitudes toward a certain racial group, and open their minds to people who have different skin colors from them. The findings also suggest that merely attempting to instruct bilingual children in dual language/literacy skills is insufficient to help them grow into empowered participants of global communities. Thus, the goal of a literacy program in young bilingual classrooms has to be that students learn not only literacy skills but also about the value and meaning of the human experience in our pluralistic society. The detailed descriptions of bilingual children’s literary discussions about social justice books can provide teachers and educators with the democratic vision of teaching literature in preschool and bilingual classrooms. From this perspective, this study will be beneficial for not only early bi-literacy educators but also for the broader community of educators interested in supporting democracy in classrooms

Topics: Korean bilinguals, Social justice, Preschool children, Multicultural literature
Year: 2013
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