To Gain Consensus on a Definition of Multicultural Children's Literature: A Delphi Study

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2005-08-01

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The purpose of this study was to gain consensus on a definition of multicultural children's literature. The study was conducted using the Delphi Method, a research questionnaire format. A pilot study was completed, followed by three rounds of questionnaires. The 25 participants were selected from a Children's Literature listserv, whose membership includes several hundred college professors, authors of children's books, university librarians, and education diversity specialists.

Many Delphi doctoral dissertations and other research studies have examined multicultural literature for stereotyped portrayals of characters of color and ethnic origin. This researcher found none that included the literary integrity of the books as well as the multicultural content. This study sought a definition of multicultural children's literature that would include a literary standard for quality literature as well as multicultural elements.

The study was organized into four literary categories: Plot, Characters, Setting, and Point of View. The questionnaire format was designed to gather information in each category on what elements would have to be present in order for a book to be identified as multicultural children's literature. Statements on which consensus was gained were combined to form a definition of multicultural children's literature.

Many of the participants embarked on this study with the preconceived idea that all works of quality literature are innately multicultural. However, they concluded that, to be multicultural, quality literature should also demonstrate an awareness of multicultural elements. The resulting definition states that a work of quality literature can be labeled multicultural children's literature if the plot tells a fascinating story; the characters are believable and round; the setting enlarges the view of the reader; and the point of view reveals the inner world of each character; all the while demonstrating an awareness of multicultural elements such as age, class, disability, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation.

This and a longer form of the definition could be distributed in the form of a handout to be placed in libraries, bookstores, and classrooms, where those involved with book selection for children could use it for a guide. It could be accompanied by a list of appropriate books, while those with stereotyped portrayals could be deleted.

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