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Shabazz City High School : Reading

Questions to Consider

Accuracy and Currency of Facts and Interpretation

  • Are thoughts and emotions portrayed authentically?
  • In historical fiction, is the content realistic for the time period?
  • Does the content intensify the reader’s sensitivity to the feelings of others?
  • Does the author present a balanced view of the issues in the book, especially nonfiction?

Stereotypes in Lifestyles

  • Are culturally diverse characters and their settings contrasted unfavorably with an unstated norm of Anglo American middle class suburbia?
  • Does the story go beyond oversimplifications of reality and offer genuine insights into another lifestyle or culture?

Plot

  • Do European Americans in the story have all the power and make the decisions?
  • Do people from diverse backgrounds function in essentially subservient roles?
  • Does a character from a diverse background have to exhibit superior qualities (excel in sports, get A’s) to succeed?
  • How are “problems” presented, conceived, and resolved in the story?
  • Are people from diverse backgrounds considered to be “the problem”?
  • Do solutions ultimately depend on the benevolence of a European American?
  • Are the achievements of girls and women based on their own initiative and intelligence, or is their success due to their good looks or to their relationships with boys?
  • Are sex roles incidental or paramount to characterization and plot?
  • Could the same story be told if the sex roles were reversed?

Theme

  • Would the book limit or promote an adolescent’s self-image and self-esteem?
  • Would the book limit or promote an adolescent’s aspirations?
  • Can a reader from any culture become so involved with the book that he or she can identify with the characters and vicariously experience their feelings?

Language

  • Is terminology current or appropriate for the time period?
  • Does the language refrain from including pejorative terms unless germane to the story?
  • Do any dialects reflect the varieties found in contemporary life?
  • Does the dialect reflect negatively on an entire culture?

Author’s Perspective

  • What qualifications does the author (or illustrator) have to write about a multicultural topic?
  • Is the author (or illustrator) able to think as a member of another cultural group and to intellectually and emotionally become a member of that group?
  • If the author (or illustrator) is not a member of the culturally diverse group being written about, is there anything in the author’s (or illustrator’s) background that would specifically recommend her or him for this book?
  • If a book has to do with the feelings and insights of women, does a male author (or illustrator) present these appropriately?

Illustrations

  • Are there stereotypes, oversimplifications, and generalizations in the illustrations?
  • Do pictures demean or ridicule characters?
  • Is there tokenism or European Americans with tinted or colored faces?
  • Is sufficient individuality and diversity depicted within cultural groups?

Sources: Questions developed, in part, from the following:

Jordan, A. D. (1996a). Books of other cultures. Teaching and Learning Literature, 5(4), 23–25.

Jordan, A. D. (1996c). Welcome to my world: Books of other cultures. Teaching and Learning Literature, 5(4), 15–22.

Miller-Lachman, L. (1992). Our family, our friends, our world: An annotated guide to significant multicultural books for children and teenagers. New Providence, NJ: R. R. Bowker.

Ten quick ways to analyze children’s books for racism and sexism. (November 3, 1974). Interracial Books for Children, 5(3), 6–7.