Essay Sample on Multicultural Children's Literature

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1404 Words
Date:  2022-12-04


Self-identity is a development process that almost every human being goes through on their journey to adulthood. The creation of a system to guide children into adult life is difficult, especially for African-American children. Besides defining their character, they are also expected to outline themselves based on their culture and nationality-African American and American. Among how black children can develop self-identity is via the illustrations they come across in literature material that they encounter. Most parents consider the African-American children's books as ones which would help in developing a cultural identity, promote self-esteem and instill the pride in African-America children. The moment books are read to these children, the children tend to focus on the images, and they end up being subject to the impressions posted by these pictures. Children's books that are reliable for African American culture, physicality and intelligence are few and far between. This paper explains how self-identity and self-esteem can be cultivated in black children through the Children's literature. Also, the paper also expounds on the black literary contemplations and enlightenment ideologies of race as well as humanity.

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In Thomas Jefferson's Query XIV, he comments on the beauty of whites and blacks but criticizing the blacks due to their "immovable veil of black" and lack of flowing hair. Jefferson went ahead and stated that black men preferred white women over black women in the phrase "uniformly as it is the presence of Oran-options for the black women over those of their species... Comparing them by their faculties of memory, reason, and imagination, it appears to me, that in memory they are equal to whites; in reason much inferior....the improvement of the blacks in body and mind, in the first instance of their mixture with the whites, has been observed by everyone, and proves that their inferiority is not the effect merely of their condition of life" (Schuffelton, 1999).

Skin color has always been crucial in a black man's life. Historical and contemporary literature points out how skin color of the African-Americans has influenced the attitudes towards and the treatment of blacks in a dynamic culture which is why it is necessary that images seen by African American children in the books are a correct display of their experiences and attributes in the development of their self-identity and self-worth (Norton, 2005).

Most of the multicultural children have a hard time developing a positive racial identity since they get a double contradicting message from society: All people are equal, but some people are superior to others. Children are vulnerable, and so if they lack support in positive identity forms, they can easily mistake racist messages and unconsciously incorporate them into their view of themselves and others. Such negative thinking affects children's potential. In "School of Education at Johns Hopkins University-Multicultural Children's Literature," Jennifer Johnson Higgins believes that children need to be appropriately represented in books that are read to them in schools. She goes on further to state that negative images and stereotyping of people and cultures in children's literature books is toxic to the children whose background and ethnicity is being ridiculed. However, books with multicultural incorporations are difficult to get our hands on. In another children's book "Grandpa, Is Everything Black Bad?" by Sandy Holman, it talks of a dark complexion boy, Montsho, who struggles with his identity and dark skin. According to Montsho, he views most black things around him as being bad. He goes to the extent of noticing that people even wear black clothes during funerals, which is a symbol of sadness (Holman, 1998). Also, the idea that people always associate black cats with a bad omen disturbed his mind. In the book, his aunt even refers to him as the black sheep of the family as his skin was darker than his brothers. His question, "Tell me Grandpa, is everything black bad? I'm black. So does that make me bad too?" emphasizes the thought that when children see negative things that represent them, as in Montsho's case, his dark skin color, it affects their psyche, and can be devastating to see how they view themselves in the long run.

African Americans deserve to share a common ground as other Americans and also, everyone should offer a standard response to racism that blacks have been exposed to. Our views on the various cultural backgrounds have today been shaped by attributes being passed on from one generation to the next. It is these values that have developed how we see ourselves. In another exciting children's book is the "Quicksand," where Nella Larsen's protagonist, Helga, experiences a hard time in shaping an identity which is free of bonds placed on her by her family as well as the society at large. Being the daughter of a black jazz musician but adopted by a white Danish woman, she has never had a black family member in her reach. Helga struggles a lot to connect her outward appearance and her external reality (Larsen, 1986). It is captured from the book that Helga never finds peace and comfort from interacting with either black people or white people, and as a result, she is constantly seen to relocate to different places in search for a society she can perfectly fit in. Nonetheless, in "Why Is Everything Black Bad?" Montsho's grandpa answers him with "the dark color of your skin and your African Heritage is a good thing..." and these words, in turn, revive Montsho's self-esteem. Positive, proper images of African American children will do the same. Much of the job is upon the African American parents and society as a whole, to correctly guide and advice their children on the negative implications caused by the images they see in literature adventures.

Negative implications are not the only problem but also the availability of African American figures in the children's books matters. Such figures have to be incorporated so that African American children can also judge their place in society and appreciate their recognition. It is quite apparent that if children do not see black faces in institutions such as courtrooms, hospitals, homes, or even in crowds, then it will affect them. Some children often take it to another level and end up disregarding their African American culture because it is portrayed as being inferior. In William Wells Brown's "Clotel," Clotel similar to Helga in "Quicksand" was caught up in two races, lacking the ability to identify herself as either black or white. Clotel's mother, Currer raised her with the hopes of matching her to a white man (Brown, 2000). It can be noted that Currer's reason for raising her kids differs noticeably from that of today's blacks who may live as a white society from lack of self-identity and being exposed to positive black images, the result being the same; which is the denial of their black race.

Having a glimpse at the books present under children's literature, it is noticeable that there are hardly any books which include black images. Most of the books have incorporated white characters and non-human characters for instance animals. It is therefore essential to bring in authentic and positive images for African-American children to appreciate their culture which reflects their identity. The paper lucidly demonstrates the lack of racial identity in children's literature. The research has also disclosed that as Kira Pirofski in "Race, Gender, and disability in Today's Children's Literature" says "books that have sold more than one million copies are also deprived of African-American characters." (Pirofski, 2001) Claire Jefferson Glipa in an NRP interview, "Black Characters Fill Roles in Children's Books" also agrees that most mainstream bookstores have a tiny section and that there is a lack of children's books with positive African American images in the bookstores. Also, there are a limited number of African American children's books available for online purchase.


Schuffelton, F. (1999). Thomas Jefferson notes on the state of Virginia. New York. Retrieved from, D. E. (2005). Multicultural children's literature: Through the eyes of many children. Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.

Holman, S. L. (1998). Grandpa, is Everything Black Bad? Culture Coop.

Larsen, N. (1986). Passing. New Brunswick.

Brown, W. W. (2000). Clotel; or, the President's Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States. 1853. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's.

Pirofski, K. I. (2001). Race, gender, and disability in today's children's literature. Multicultural Pavillion Research Room. Retrieved from, E. (2018). Cowboy City: An Original Children's Book.

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