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Cultural Authenticity Research Paper
“Knowledge of the diverse world around the students leads to communication, understanding and acceptance of differences, and assists in finding one’s identity” (Arellano, 2011). Cultural authenticity is depicted as the examination of books to see if it accurately demonstrates the history and language of a particular culture. However, there is not one-way of life for everyone in a group which means the author must do further research to examine this group. Readers that are part of the group need to relate to the book or know what they are reading is true. It must hold true to their culture, and others need to see mirrors of themselves or learn about cultural likeness and dissimilarity. “Evaluating authenticity involves considering complex issues, not making a simple yes or no decision about the cultural authenticity of a book” (Short, 2003).
There have been so many issues with using cultural authenticity in children’s literature. It is one of those issues that seem to find its way back to the surface again and again. It always seems to get people amped up and a lot of people have different points of view about authenticity. People like teachers, editors, authors, publishers, and illustrators have different outlooks on the topic about authenticity and feel strongly about their views of the subject. In debates on cultural authenticity people have brought forth the argument that whites should write books about people of color.
The outsider/insider debate is the most common issue when dealing with cultural authenticity. The question is asked frequently, and both sides have very different perspectives on the subject which leads them to varying opinions. Some authors believe that it is restricting their freedom because they are not able to write about other cultures. If people see it from this perspective, they see it as a form of criticism on the author and their ability to write about different races. But others believe, that the question is important to ask because what if the author cannot depict the character correctly or make culturally authentic if they aren’t of that culture. some people see it as simplistic, because the writers aren’t of that race, so they don’t know what it’s like to be of that culture. That is why there has been a problem when it has come to writing culturally authentic books.
Additionally, there has also been a problem for some educators and authors when describing cultural authenticity. They are hesitant when establishing a definition for cultural authenticity and will probably talk about it using instinctive details. Most people acknowledged Bishop when he said that “cultural authenticity cannot be defined but you know it when you see it” (Fox & Short, 2004). Another insider named Howard agreed and said, “The reader’s sense of truth in how a specific cultural experience has been represented within a book, particularly when the reader is an insider to the culture portrayed in that book, is probably the most common understanding of cultural authenticity” (Fox & Short, 2004).
However, some people do believe that cultural authenticity can be defined and have defined it as “the accuracy of the details of everyday life as represented in a children’s book” (Fox & Short, 2004). They can also recognize it, by seeing if it reflects the values or beliefs of that culture. Also, even though there is not one way of life for everyone in that group, there is still a way to determine the authenticity of a book because authenticity is more than correctness or the preventing of racism. It also includes the belief systems and principles that are valued as standard practices within that cultural group. However, assessments of accuracy can tell a person whether or not the information in the story is true about a culture, but they can’t tell you if those people actually followed that belief system or used those standard practices. Additionally, that is why a story that is accurate is not necessarily authentic. The story show practices that exist but are not part of that culture, so they are not authentic to that culture. That is why many people don’t like to define cultural authenticity and just like to point it out when they see it.
Furthermore, there have been debates about why cultural authenticity matters in children’s literature. Some parents and teachers feel as though cultural authenticity in children’s literature doesn’t matter however. However, they feel as though everyone should be able to see a mirror of themselves within a book. Children need books to help them with their experiences in life rather than falsifications or misinterpretations. Additionally, that is why culturally authentic books are more fascinating for children. By reading these books, children are able to learn about their culture and other students are able to understand more things about different cultures. Also, culturally authentic books teach students to be more aware of power. The books teach students about social and political issues while showing them different types of cultures, that more diverse than the dominant cultures they normally read.
Cultural authenticity is important to use is children’s literature because children need to be able to face racism or deal with problems of multiculturalism, fairness, stereotypes of race and gender as they read literature. That is why the process of evaluating cultural authenticity is so complex. There are not only criteria for culture and race in culturally authentic books, there are also other issues in these books that the author needs to consider when creating an authentic book. There are criteria that help children understand issues of sexuality and equality. That they need to start reading about in books as well. Some examples of these types of books In Our Mothers’ House, The Pants Project, and You are you, and I am me because they are culturally authentic books that help teach kids about stereotypes of gender, sexuality, and equality. Additionally, some researchers argue that children need culturally authentic books because children are able to take notes and to analyze the authenticity of a book and the point of view bestowed upon the reader.
Lastly, teachers use cultural authenticity in classrooms because elementary schools today in the United States are more diverse than in previous years. Additionally, the diversity in schools is continuing to increase, and this diversity is evident because of the student population. That is why it is important that students learn to accept diversity and discover different cultures by using multicultural literature.
Multicultural literature can be used to begin an acceptance and understanding of different races, ethnicities, and cultures. For children from mainstream culture, multicultural books assist in teaching acceptance and understanding which leads to cultural sensitivity. For children who are culturally diverse, the use of multicultural books assists in building a positive self-concept and a feeling of comfort and acceptance in the classroom environment. Multicultural literature can be used across the curriculum if so desired by the educator. The use of multicultural books in the classroom can take place in different subject matters. These books are valuable to the teacher because they are satisfied with the types of books they select.
Overall, the topic of cultural authenticity is very complex. The discussion of this subject starts a debate on whether or not the author should know a lot about the culture. Additionally, I now know that we must guarantee that all of the books that children read are accurate and authentic. Children’s literature has the potential to play such a key role in an education that is international and intercultural. All children should have access to culturally authentic literature because they are able to learn about their culture and other students are able to understand more things about different cultures.
- Jennifer, A. (2011, May). The Use of Multicultural Literature in Elementary Classrooms: Teaching Acceptance and Understanding of Different Races, Ethnicities, and Cultures. Retrieved January 20, 2019, from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.390.1666&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- Short, K. G., & Fox, D. (Eds.). (2003). Examining Cultural Authenticity within International Literature. Retrieved January 20, 2019, from https://wowlit.org/wp-content/media/cultural-authenticity-criteria.pdf
- Short, K. G., & Fox, D. (Eds.). (2004). The Complexity of Cultural Authenticity in Children’s Literature: A Critical Review. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254745289_The_Complexity_of_Cultural_Aut henticity_in_Children’s_Literature_A_Critical_Review
- Short, K. (2006, August 1). Ethics and Cultural Authenticity in International Children’s Literature. Retrieved January 20, 2019, from http://www.ibby.org/subnavigation/archives/ibby-congresses/2006-in-macau/detailed-programme-and-speeches/kathy-short/
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