The Role Of Multicultural Literature Essay

1668 words - 7 pages

As globalization is on the rise, so is the diverse student population rising in schools all over the United States, including students who are learning English as a new language. These students are English Language Learners (ELLs); they are learning English for the first time in addition to their native language. They’ve either had little or no knowledge of English before entering the school environment. According to the National Center of Educational Statistics (2013), an estimated 4.7 million or ten percent of the public school population are ELL students (NCES 2013). When formally entering the classroom for the first time, and depending on their prior experience with English, there are many ELL students who have a difficult time fitting into the American context of their classroom due to cultural conflicts and language barriers (Hakuta, 1986). Due to the language barrier and cultural conflict, it makes the ELL’s process of learning English challenging therefore affecting their literacy learning. Moreover, it becomes difficult for the ELL to do academically well in school. A study done by National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 2011 shows there is a significant achievement gap between the reading scores of ELLs and non-ELLs, with the non-ELL’s scores being much more higher than the ELLs( NAEP 2011). There have been many ways argued to help improve ELL’s literacy skills in order to raise their reading scores, one way being is using multicultural literature. Multicultural literature can be used to create a motivating environment for the ELL student to help them feel included in the classroom context therefore improving and increasing their literacy skills.
Multicultural literature, as defined by Gopalakrishnan (2010), is literature about “ the sociocultural experiences of previously underrepresented groups. It validates these groups’ experiences, including those occurring because of differences in language, race, gender, class, ethnicity, identity, and sexual orientation ”(p.5). Norton states that the goal of multicultural literature is to “understand and respect the cultural identities of children, respect their cultural differences, understand and respect their universal rights as human beings, prepare children for responsible free lives in society, and implement cross communication” (pg. 77).
ELLs come from homes where a different language is spoken and a different culture is practiced. Different cultures have a set of traditions, beliefs and values that influence children’s way of thinking and behavior that carries along into the school environment, which is highlighted in Lev Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory. According to Vygotsky’s theory, the social and cultural atmosphere around the child contributes and influences the child’s cognitive development. (Vygotsky 1978 ). Consequently, Schimdt (1996) points to when the ELL goes into the school environment where there is a different culture, ELLs have to struggle with...

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