This post is written by member, Benjamin Boche.
After listening to Jacqueline Woodson speak at the 2014 NCTE Annual Convention about Brown Girl Dreaming and the importance of children seeing themselves on the insides and outsides of books, I’ve taken great care to put multicultural literature at the center of my undergraduate children’s literature class in my new role as an assistant professor of teacher education. As last fall breezed by, the preservice teachers and I read diverse books, had discussions, and nodded our heads in agreement about the importance of multicultural literature. The impetus behind the books, discussions, and agreements, however, came from me, the professor, rather than the preservice teachers. They were not taking ownership over the material, and I was unsure whether or not they saw themselves using multicultural literature in their future classrooms. This past semester I decided to change things up and use the process of inquiry circles (from Harvey & Daniels, 2009) to let my preservice teachers explore topics and present information on issues surrounding multicultural literature that were important to them rather than dictating topics myself.
Inquiry circles have opened up a new space for multicultural literature to come alive in my classroom and my preservice teachers’ future classrooms. I witnessed firsthand preservice teachers broadening their ideas not only of what constitutes multicultural literature, but also what they feel other preservice teachers should know about diverse student populations they may come into contact with in the future.
A major part of inquiry circles is “going public,” in which small groups must present a written and physical component about what they learned through their research on their chosen topic. Many of my preservice teachers chose to create resources for their classmates that helped to explain some diverse student characteristics that new teachers may see (such as autism, anxiety, and differing family structures) and directly link these characteristics to children’s literature. One group literally helped their classmates “put the puzzle together” on understanding autistic students and using children’s literature to promote autism awareness in their future classrooms.
I look forward to continuing this project in the future and seeing what other pieces we can add to the ever-expanding picture of multicultural literature.
Harvey, S., & Daniels, H. (2009). Comprehension and collaboration: Inquiry circles in action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Benjamin Boche is an assistant professor of education at Concordia University, Chicago, where he teaches children’s literature and elementary and middle level literacy methods and coordinates the middle level education program. He is looking forward to reading diverse children’s books this summer.