ERIC Identifier: ED380240
Publication Date: 1995-03-00
Author: Swick, Kevin J. - And Others
Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
Family Involvement in Early Multicultural Learning. ERIC
Research supports the idea that children's early childhood experiences are
powerful in influencing their cultural understandings (Banks, 1993). Children
develop ideas about racial identity and the attributes of cultural groups other
than their own as early as three years of age (Banks, 1993). Equally
significant, children begin their development of self-understanding (inclusive
of their cultural identity) at birth. Self-understanding is constructed from
experiences with others, mainly parents, but certainly including caregivers and
teachers and significant kin and friends (Rossi & Rossi, 1990).
Recent studies suggest that the intimate involvement of parents and teachers
with young children provides natural opportunities for modeling, guiding, and
nurturing positive racial, ethnic, and cultural attitudes and perspectives.
Fostering young children's multicultural understanding can be accomplished
naturally through family involvement in children's care and education on several
Strategies that support children's multicultural learning within a context of
family involvement fall into three categories: parent education and support,
school-family curriculum activities, and teacher-parent partnership efforts
(Banks, 1993; Swick & Graves, 1993).
PARENT EDUCATION AND SUPPORT
Enlisting parents' help in
identifying appropriate and meaningful goals and activities for family
involvement in multicultural education is a first step. Teachers can involve
parents by holding orientation meetings for parents in which the importance of
the multicultural focus of the curriculum is explained. They can share
multicultural information with parents through a lending library of books,
articles, and videos; bulletin boards of events, ideas, and suggestions;
parenting programs; and newsletters. "Anti-bias alerts" can warn parents about
upcoming television programs that may present cultural groups in inaccurate ways
(Derman-Sparks, 1989). Other steps include supporting parents in their efforts
to find resources and activities by fostering in parents the need for pride in
their family and their ethnic and racial heritage.
Parent and family involvement strategies need to support parents in gaining
confidence and competence in their modeling and teaching roles (Swick, 1987).
Children look to their parents or guardians for examples of how to relate to
people who are different from themselves. Parents need positive support for
their efforts to intentionally function as multicultural role models (Byrnes,
The diversity of cultures in the
classroom is a natural starting point for increasing children's multicultural
awareness. Activities that can increase both parents' AND children's
multicultural awareness include study and discussion groups on racial or
cultural issues; events in which parents as well as teachers and children
celebrate their cultural diversity; and parent participation in specific
classroom curriculum activities (Ramsey & Derman-Sparks, 1992). Concrete
activities in which parents and other family members can take part, such as
field trips and classroom presentations, should include a time for discussion in
which children can ask questions and explore their concerns and ideas
(Neugebauer, 1992). Helping children have positive interactions with people from
other cultures is critical to their formation of sensitive and supportive
perceptions of others.
Using interesting and appropriate materials in classrooms is another way of
fostering children's awareness (Byrnes, 1992). For example, PROPS such as
containers of hair products for men and women from various cultures can
stimulate discussion about similarities and differences among people. Activities
such as eating can be represented for different cultures (Neugebauer, 1992).
Byrnes (1992) suggests that DISPLAYS throughout the classroom should include
representations of people from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds
engaged in meaningful activities. These displays can include family photos,
original work by the children in the class, and contributions from children's
parents and peers.
ORIGINAL CLASS BOOKS, including class directories, friendship or family
books, activity books focused on field trips, and "profiles" of class guests,
enrich the school-family curriculum (Neugebauer, 1992). Children can create
original books by gathering photographs or making drawings, writing or dictating
texts, and binding these materials in some way. Such projects are most effective
when family members create the book together. Art, drama, music, dance, and
writing are other ways of fostering children's positive attitudes toward others.
Joint efforts by parents and
teachers are the natural starting point for building a family-school program.
Parents can participate in establishing multicultural guidelines for curriculum
and instruction activities (Banks, 1993). Classroom study teams, school advisory
groups, and multicultural planning sessions are some avenues that assure
parents' input in policy (Ramsey & Derman-Sparks, 1992).
The role of parents as resource persons is a familiar one to teachers, who
can ask families to share cultural items like magazine pictures, family recipes,
dramatic play props, family experiences, stories, and artifacts. Teachers can
also be a powerful resource for multicultural learning at home. Teachers can
share with families items such as books, videotapes, and child-made materials.
Teachers should focus on integrating the learning to be derived from these
materials with families' literacy and cultural growth. Summer reading lists,
special public library learning centers, and community cultural fairs are ways
to extend and reinforce this process.
There are many types of activities
and resources that can enhance children's multicultural learning. FAMILY
STORIES, written by children and parents about themselves as families and shared
in the classroom, can stimulate tremendous growth and sensitivity. Such stories
might include historical anecdotes about ancestors, accounts of family
struggles, and humorous incidents. Good CHILDREN'S LITERATURE that is set in
various places and situations supports the development of multicultural
perspectives (Boutte & McCormick, 1992). Good children's literature
addresses real problems and can be used as a basis for classroom discussion.
Relating literature to concrete activities such as performing drama and making
artifacts is essential.
Children respond enthusiastically to STORYTELLING by parents, grandparents,
neighbors, and teachers. Crary, in Neugebauer (1992, p.11-15), suggests that
adults can tell stories about their culture and its development, and about
struggles to achieve respect in their community. Such stories should be related
to children's interest, developmental level, and cultural context. VIDEOTAPES,
sometimes accompanied by companion books, provide a means for enhancing
children's cultural understandings.
MUSIC AND DRAMA, either recorded or produced by the children themselves, are
effective for supporting children's multicultural development. Families and
teachers can use FIELD TRIPS to enrich children's ethnic, racial, and cultural
understanding. Visits to local restaurants, museums, workplaces, churches, and
government facilities offer beginning points for learning about community
Preparing children to be sensitive members of a
multicultural community is a great challenge. Families and teachers can prepare
the foundation for this sensitivity by creating family-school learning
experiences in the early years that enable children to understand and appreciate
the value of cultural diversity.
This digest was adapted from: Swick, Kevin J., Gloria Boutte, and Irma van
Scoy. (1994). Multicultural Learning through Family Involvement. DIMENSIONS
22(4, Summer): 17-21. EJ 488 475.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Banks, J. (1993). Multicultural
Education for Young Children: Racial and Ethnic Attitudes and Their
Modification. In B. Spodek (Ed.), HANDBOOK OF RESEARCH ON THE EDUCATION OF YOUNG
CHILDREN. New York: Macmillan. ED 361 107.
Boutte, G., and C. McCormick. (1992). Authentic Multicultural Activities:
Avoiding Pseudomulticulturalism. CHILDHOOD EDUCATION 68(3, Spring): 140-144. EJ
Byrnes, D. (1992). Addressing Race, Ethnicity, and Culture in the Classroom.
In D. Byrnes and G. Kiger (Eds.), COMMON BONDS: ANTIBIAS TEACHING IN A DIVERSE
SOCIETY. Wheaton, MD: Association for Childhood Education International. ED 348
Comer, J., and N. Haynes. (1991). Parent Involvement in Schools: An
Ecological Approach. ELEMENTARY SCHOOL JOURNAL 91(3, Jan): 271-278. EJ 429 059.
Derman-Sparks, L. (1989). ANTI-BIAS CURRICULUM: TOOLS FOR EMPOWERING YOUNG
CHILDREN. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young
Children. ED 305 135.
Neugebauer, B. (Ed.). (1992). ALIKE AND DIFFERENT: EXPLORING OUR HUMANITY
WITH YOUNG CHILDREN. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of
Ramsey, P., and L. Derman-Sparks. (1992). Multicultural Education Reaffirmed.
YOUNG CHILDREN 47(2, Jan):10-11. EJ 438 179.
Rossi, S., and P. Rossi. (1990). OF HUMAN BONDING. New York: Basic Books.
Swick, K. (1987). PERSPECTIVES ON UNDERSTANDING AND WORKING WITH FAMILIES.
Champaign, IL: Stipes.
Swick, K. (1991). TEACHER-PARENT PARTNERSHIPS TO ENHANCE SCHOOL SUCCESS IN
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION. Washington, DC: National Education Association. ED
Swick, K., and S. Graves. (1993). EMPOWERING AT-RISK FAMILIES DURING THE
EARLY CHILDHOOD YEARS. Washington, DC: National Education Association. ED 360