Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Article Note: On Small, Multicultural Presses

Citation for the article:

Gangi, Jane M. "Inclusive Aesthetics and Social Justice: The Vanguard of Small, Multicultural Presses." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 30.3 (Fall 2005): 243-264.

Read via Project Muse.

This article takes a look at the work of small, multicultural presses and their role in promoting inclusiveness, diversity, social justice, and high quality work. The article begins with a contextual summary that shows an overall lack of multicultural images and issues in children's literature. The textbooks used to train school teachers are part of the problem given the gaps and lapses regarding multicultural literature in their contents. Why is this significant? According to the article's author:
"Children who see themselves and their families in books can make many more connections with what they read than can children who do not; developing comprehension depends on children being able to use their schema. Simply put, when the literature in the curriculum is largely by and about white people, white children have many more opportunities to practice essential reading strategies than children of color" (244-245).

Overall, historically a series of factors converge to perpetuate the situation: muliticultural images are underrepresented, teacher education emphasizes less professional development, and there is a pervasive lack of funding for the neediest children (245). Want an illustration of that last factor? Go read some of Johnathan Kozol's works.

Gangi goes on to discuss a history of small presses. She looks at publishing houses such as Children's Book Press, Cinco Puntos, and Lee & Low. Again, some significance of the work that these and other small presses do:
"Children's literature tends to depict the middle and upper classes; they are, after all, the market segments whose parents are most likely to have money to buy books. Small presses are distinguished by a concern for the children of the poor, the working poor, and the working class" (249).
Examples of these works include CPB's A Shelter in our Car and Cinco Puntos's Selavi: A Haitian Story of Hope. These are books about the homeless and the poor. In addition, Gangi discusses other works that illustrate issues such as labor leaders and activists, immigrants and cross-cultural experiences, and refugee issues. This part of the article might make a good collection development tool for a children's librarian. Gangi also discusses awards of interest such as the Coretta Scott King Book Award. At the end, the author provides a link for bibliographies(the link is leads to a small page about her book. Look for the PDF link. The author has moved, and has a new page. Look for the bibliographies. I found the new page with a Google search as I could not make the first link work at first). The works cited list is also worth a look.

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