Children’s literature can lay a foundation for helping children become culturally competent citizens of both our culturally diverse country and our global society. Cultural competence is an increasingly essential skillset for the 21st century. Maria Rosaria T. de Guzman and colleagues (2016), explain, “Cultural competence is the ability of a person to effectively interact, work, and develop meaningful relationships with people of various cultural backgrounds. Cultural background can include the beliefs, customs, and behaviors of people from various groups” (p. 1). Thus, encouraging cultural competence can be part of promoting school readiness in the areas of social and emotional development. Consider how you can select and share picturebooks that champion the diversity of religious practices and languages in our communities and our world.
As children learn words and concepts for discussing religious beliefs, they build cultural consciousness which will help them to succeed in our global society in which many hobbies, careers, and other social interactions involve conversing and collaborating with people from diverse faith communities (Naidoo, 2014). An important step you can take toward improving diversity in this area is to share books about characters practicing different religions throughout the year, rather than only on holidays (Naidoo, 2014) You can present welcoming mirrors and educational windows (Bishop, 1990) into diverse religious traditions by carefully choosing picturebooks with characters who authentically practice various religions.
Increasing the language diversity of your storytime can be an improvement toward school readiness because it creates a welcoming learning space for children who speak a language other than English at home, builds children’s cultural competence, an important social-emotional skill, and provides additional language-learning opportunities (Domke, 2020). One way to increase the language diversity of your storytime is to share a dual-language book, one in which the text is written in both English and another language. Some dual-language books, especially those written before the 2010s, privilege English or contain cultural stereotypes (Domke, 2018): therefore consider using one of the resources in this section to choose a dual-language book with cultural sensitivity. Another way to increase language diversity is to share two versions of a story, one written in English and the other in another language. If you are not fluent in the other language, you could choose a book on CD, an audiobook, or a read-aloud video from an accessible website such as YouTube. Alternatively, you could form a partnership with a community member – maybe even a caregiver who attends storytime – and have them read the text in their fluent language. Another strategy for EDI in the area of language is to share a bilingual book that has words or phrases from a second language, such as Spanish, integrated throughout the book. This type of book utilizes code switching by either providing the English translation or using the equivalent English word or phrase in a subsequent sentence (Chaudhri & Torres, 2021). For more strategies related to serving families who speak a native language other than English or families who are English language learners, see section 5.4.2: Improve Support for Historically Underserved Groups.