What is Multicultural Literacy?
Multicultural literacy is defined through the idea of an inclusive and diverse education system where students of all cultural backgrounds are provided the respect and recognition they deserve in the classroom. It is through this literacy that we must foster certain pedagogies concerning both social justice and social difference in the classroom (Taylor & Hoechsmann, 2011).
This is a 21st century literacy as it specifically focuses on the ability to implement radical forms of thinking into the education system in order to help students become more critically literate in helping them succeed in our rapid changing society. Multiculturalism is a growing concept in Canada as we recognize the many immigrants being integrated into our communities, we must take an explicit effort in helping to accommodate these individuals as we attempt to understand their diverse culture and needs. Multicultural literacy incorporated into the classroom is able to promote multicultural values, as it serves as a platform to recognizing diversity and inclusivity through education. It is critical for teacher to be able to recognize these diverse needs and promote multicultural acceptance in the classroom to ensure all students are being provided with the education they deserve.
Why is Multicultural Literacy Important?
Boutte (2008) discusses how by fostering both critical thinking and culturally sensitive pedagogies we are able to bring explicit attention to society related cultural issues, in hope to positively impact diverse learners in the classroom through giving recognition to the barriers they may face through educational institutions. It is crucial to be able to critically think about multicultural literacy and how to effectively implement it into education. Through applying radical thinking pedagogies there is hope to provide diverse learners with the tools and opportunities they need in order to be successful in the classroom, and abolish discrimination and oppression present in educational institutions.
O’Byrne and Smith (2015) discuss how through the use of multicultural literacy, culturally marginalized students feel more respected and comfortable in the classroom as they genuinely feel their needs are being met and their voices are being heard. We have the potential to educate in ways that are innovative to the traditional education system, creating an environment of free expression which is able to help liberate both students and teachers.
Multicultural Literacy in the Classroom
Education to the Core provides an outline to six, fun an engaging ways to promote multicultural literacy in the classroom.
- TRUST! The first way to celebrate diversity in the classroom focuses around building trust, between both students and students and teachers. Students feeling a sense of trust in the classroom is essential to their learning as they become fully engaged with what they are being taught. “When you have your students’ trust, you will see a different side to them you didn’t existed”, possibly promoting students to engage and interact with their own cultural backgrounds in the classroom as they feel it is both respected and trusted.
- INVOLVE STUDENTS! The second way to celebrate diversity in the classroom is to actually involve students in lesson planning through understanding their wants and needs. It is important to understand what students are both passionate about and excited to learn, this can help to foster their involvement in education as they are able to develop a better appreciation for it. This can incorporate multicultural literacy through involving students when teaching different cultural backgrounds – students with real experiences can know best!
- HAVE A FEAST! Having a cultural day can be super fun and engaging for students as they are given an opportunity to explore their own and their classmates cultural backgrounds. This type of activity is able to celebrate diversity in the classroom, as everyone comes together to recognize and appreciate their peers cultural backgrounds. This could possibly help the teacher to get to know their students better as well.
- INVOLVE PARENTS! Parents too have the chance to feel culturally marginalized in the classroom, as they may feel undermined in comparison to other parents. Involving parents gives teachers better opportunities to know and understand their students as they have direct contact when helping to reach out to a child. Involving parents also make them feel more secure in the teachers ability to respect and appreciate their cultural background as they take that next step in effort.
- BRING IN BOOKS! There are TONS of books out there that are able to help bring awareness and appreciation to different cultural backgrounds through fun and engaging ways. Through providing students with different stories pertaining to their academic level they may grasp a better sense on why it is important to recognize and respect cultures other than just their own.
- GLOBAL PENPALS! Assigning students penpals allows them to have a first hand interaction with a culture that is vastly different than their own. This gives them the opportunity to learn, research, and understand different cultures in a fun way!
For a Further Look…
Boutte, G.S. (2008). Beyond the illusion of diversity: How early childhood teachers can promote social justice. The Social Studies, 99(4), 165-173.
O’Byrne, I. W., & Smith, S. A. (2015). Multicultural education and multiliteracies: Exploration and exposure of literacy practices with preservice teachers. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 31, 168-184.
Taylor, L.K. & Hoechsmann, M. (2011). Beyond intellectual insularity: Multicultural literacy as
a measure of respect. Canadian Journal of Education, 34(2), 219-238.