Six Steps to Utilizing Multicultural Books in Classroom Read Alouds

diversity

Guest Article Written By: Sandra Bornstein

Students need to feel comfortable in their classrooms. Well-written multicultural picture books allow students of different ethnic groups to connect with the characters and provide an avenue for dialogue with students who sometimes feel marginalized by their background.

The following 6 steps will successfully support diversity initiatives by adding quality multicultural books:

  • Evaluate the classroom demographics. Take time to examine the school’s population by looking at the data provided by the state’s department of education or local school district. Additional information can be obtained after the start of school by surveying the parents and the students for additional facts. Look over the data and create categories that have commonalities.
  • Determine specific goals of read alouds. Look at the different groups of students and consider what type of books might interest each segment of the class. Consider whether there are any universal themes that may apply to more than one group. Address the different ability levels of the class. Create a list of literary goals that conform to the school, school district and/or state’s standard objectives. As a handy reference guide produce a chart that outlines all of the goals and provides space to include books that match up with the desired aims.
  • Locate books that support targeted areas. Using personal collection of books, the school or public library, Internet resources, and a children’s librarian find books that align with each part of the chart. Create a list of books.
  • Review the books to see if they conform to your expectations. Read each book for authenticity and try to determine if the characters appear culturally accurate. Check to see if there are any distortions, unnecessary stereotyping, engaging illustrations, whether the characters are portrayed with a positive self-image, and if there are any universal messages. See which books conform to the mandated literacy standards. Acceptable books should be added to the chart.
  • Plan each unit of study. Create discussion points and activities that support the intended aims for each unit. Try to plan activities that engage reluctant readers and second language learners. If possible, find avenues to connect each subsequent unit with the previous one.
  • Evaluate. After each unit is completed, take the time to review the positive and negative aspects of the books, the presentation, supplementary activities, and the students’ engagement. Did the unit meet its intended goals? What, if anything, should be improved?


Sandra Bornstein, an international educator and writer, has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses at the University of Colorado and Front Range Community College. Sandra holds two master’s degrees- one in education (instruction and curriculum) from the University of Colorado-Boulder and another in Jewish Studies from Spertus College in Chicago. She is a licensed Colorado teacher with a K-12 Linguistically Diverse Education endorsement.

In 2010, her husband’s international job created a unique opportunity to live abroad. In India, she fulfilled three passions– a desire to travel, a zeal for writing, and a love of teaching. Sandra’s Indian adventure became the backdrop for her soon to be published book, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life: A Memoir. See www.sandrabornstein.com for more information.

 Photo Credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/amerisomos/

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