“Those of us who have been outsiders understand the need to be seen exactly as we are and to be accepted and valued. Our safety lies in schools and societies in which faces with many shapes and colors can feel an equal sense of belonging. Our children must grow up knowing and liking those who look and speak in different ways, or they will live as strangers in a hostile land.”
Vivian Gussin Paley
No one ever wants to feel like a pariah. This is especially true when a child or teenager feels that her classroom is not inclusive. One way to enhance learning and a sense of belonging is to encourage students to embrace their identity. Kids who feel like outsiders need to find a comfort zone otherwise they will forever feel like an iceberg cast adrift. Another part of this issue revolves around the ability of the majority to accept people who appear to be different. By exposing children to a wide variety of cultures, students will become more willing to accept peers who come from a different ethnic group or culture.
To address this pervasive issue, many schools promote multiculturalism in the classroom. Definitions of what is included in this vague term have varied from just a handful of subgroups- Asians, African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans – to almost every category possible. Thus, the implementation of multiculturalism varies from place to place.
If the underlying goal is to avoid student alienation, teachers need to be responsive to all children who perceive themselves as outsiders. With an ever increasing workload and budget cuts, this may seem like an insurmountable hurdle. Finding quality multicultural literature can be overwhelming if the range of topics exceeds the standard groups mentioned above.
Until I went to India, I did not realize that Indians were immigrating to the States in significant numbers. According to the United States 2010 census, people of Indian origin are approximately 1% of the population and are the third largest immigrant group after Filipinos and Mexicans. Hopefully efforts will be made to address the literacy needs of this subgroup.
A recent trip to the Boulder Public Library made me wonder if there are a sufficient number of books that cater to this market. When I asked one of the librarians for names of Indian authors who write for kids, she had a blank look on her face. She did a search on the database and came up with a few names. The number was less than I anticipated.
When I sent emails to some of my former teaching Indian colleagues, they likewise came up with only a handful of names. I will share some of the books in a future post.
Please feel free to share names of Indian authors and books. I look forward to hearing from you.
The memoir documents Sandra’s experiences as an American educator living and working in Bangalore, India.
The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, and the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards.