August 09, 2006

Princesses, no; women, yes

Promoting Diversity in the Classroom and School Library through Social ActionOverview

Through an exploration of stereotypes in children's picture books such as books 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 findings to promote diversity by creating paired books or text sets that match stereotypical portrayals with balanced and diverse texts. Students create bookmarks that encourage readers to question the assumptions of stereotyped books and to seek out matching, balanced texts.

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 continue, "Students 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).

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