Courses in reading, English, and language arts provide rich opportunities to bring the world to students of all ages. Increasingly, globally-minded teachers use world literature, as well as newspapers and media from other countries, to reinforce universal themes and open doors to new perspectives.
At the University of Maryland College Park, in a graduate-level course developed by Jennifer Turner, Assistant Professor of Reading Education, practicing teachers explore multicultural materials (books, poetry, music, popular films, and media) to learn effective instructional methods for teaching reading to students from diverse backgrounds. To enhance teachers’ global literacy, guest speakers from Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, and India share information about their cultures, language, and literature.
Students in this course also visit the International Children’s Digital Library. This collection of children’s books from around the world, presented in their original languages, is located on the University of Maryland campus and available to the public. The full collection is also available online. To be included in the collection, the books must have received recognition in their country of origin; be relevant and engaging for children aged three to thirteen; promote cross-cultural understanding and tolerance; and meet professionally accepted quality standards in content, format, and presentation.
Kathy Short, Professor of Language, Reading, and Culture at the University of Arizona at Tucson, has many years of experience working in children’s literature with educators outside the United States. She often hires doctoral students from other countries as instructors for the children’s literature courses. This has helped undergraduate students, who may be unaccustomed to relating to people from Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, or Mexico, learn to appreciate and respect the knowledge and perspectives of these experienced educators.
Students at the University of Arizona at Tucson also benefit from the presence of one of the largest physical collections of international children’s literature in the world. The collection is available as a resource for instructors of other methods courses. Educators outside of the area now benefit from this collection through Worlds of Words, a website that includes a database on international children’s literature and two online journals. WOW Reviews provide in-depth critical reviews focused on the cultural authenticity of specific international books. WOW Stories publishes vignettes by teachers and librarians in which they share stories about their uses of particular international books and children’s responses.