Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature

This month the BACC co-bloggers will share different aspects of diversity and inclusion as applied to and practiced in school librarianship.

WOWLongview“Culturally responsive collection development” is a term and strategy school librarians apply to indicate that we build library collections that reflect and support the cultural backgrounds of our students. To build on this strategy, we must also consider that we are living in a global society that extends beyond our students’ personal and family cultures to a wider and more diverse world.

In order to ensure that multiple voices and perspectives are represented in the resources the library provides for students, classroom teachers, and families, school librarians can develop a collection that includes global literature. Global literature includes books set in non-U.S. cultures, or is written by immigrants about living in the U.S. or in their home countries, or is written by authors who live and work in the U.S. and another country. These resources can help readers connect with others who live within and beyond our country’s borders.

Susan Corapi, Worlds of Words (WOW) board member, and Kathy G. Short WOW director, recently released a downloadable .pdf file booklet, Exploring International and Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature, to help educators understand and learn more about using global literature to explore international and intercultural understanding. In this work, Susan and Kathy provide information about a Longview Foundation for International Affairs grant-funded project called “Global Literacy Communities.” The book includes the experiences of twenty-five pre-kindergarten to high school educator study groups from nineteen U.S. states that met regularly for a period of one to three years to learn through global literature.

In their study groups, educators used global literature to further develop their international understanding and strove for something more—intercultural understanding. As Susan and Kathy note, “Intercultural understanding extends beyond nationality and politics to include informed problem solving and social action activities that necessitate an appreciation of the full range of issues, including the values and beliefs of everyone involved. Intercultural understanding creates the potential to move from curiosity about a culture to a deeper understanding of others that allows us to live and work together as global citizens” (4).

BACC readers can access an article about this publication on the EdWeek blog and can learn more about  the study groups by reading articles published in the online journal WOW Stories.

When we practice culturally responsive collection development, we have the potential to impact curriculum. But we can guarantee that impact by coplanning and coteaching to use those resources for the benefit of all students. When we take students’ heritage languages and home cultures into account and use them as background knowledge in lesson design, we are maximizing opportunities to use resources to impact student learning. In doing so, school librarians combine our skills at collection development with “connection development” (Lankes).

As collaborating school librarians, I believe we cannot overestimate our importance as literacy stewards in our buildings. With our knowledge of literature, technology resources, tools, and devices we can support teachers’ teaching and help motivate students to engage deep and meaningful learning. As the “Global Literacy Communities” study groups attest, we develop our own international and intercultural understanding as we work alongside students and classroom teachers.

How are you using global literature in your library program? Have you cotaught a collaborative lesson or unit or participated in study group to bring a global focus to your teaching?

On Thursday, I will share WOW’s My Take/Your Take Book Dialogues as a model for engaging in virtual discussions with other educators centered on global literature.

Works Cited

Corapi, Susan, and Kathy G. Short. Exploring International and Intercultural Understanding through Global Literature. Longview Foundation: Worlds of Words. 2015. Web. 30 Nov. 2015. <http://wowlit.org/Documents/InterculturalUnderstanding.pdf>.

Lankes, R. David. The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. Print.