Monday, February 18, 2013


Libraries are places overflowing with cultural knowledge!  A child can walk into a school or public library, and instantly have access to this knowledge through books, articles, and Internet access.  Librarians should not assume that kids will access cultural knowledge on their own, though.  Programming can explicitly teach cultural literacy to children in creative ways that will hold their attention.  The collection should also represent cultural knowledge from around the world and books focusing on American cultural literacy such as dictionaries, geography, history, and politics.

A great place to begin teaching cultural literacy is through

1.  When reading a story, ask the kids if they understand any idioms that are being used.  Explain any unknown or confusing idioms.

2.  Read traditional tales such as Rumpelstiltskin, The Three Little Pigs, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Peter Pan.  Try to expand outside of the traditional tales Disney has turned into movies.  There are many more such as Seven at One Blow, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and The Goose Girl.

3.  Sing nursery rhymes to the kids, encouraging them to participate.

Other library programming ideas:

Have a movie night for a Disney movie that tells a traditional tale.  First read the Grimms' version of the story, show the movie, and then discuss afterwards the differences between the two.  This may need to be a story time for older children, especially since the original tales can be a bit graphic.

Host a cultural fair where kids can contribute to it.  This is based on the idea from the interview conducted in the curriculum ideas posted elsewhere in this blog.

Bring in guest speakers who can present their own story times or programs that promote cultural literacy... especially people from other countries!

El Paso Community College's advertisement for a cultural story time illustrates an excellent example of cultural literacy in action at a library!

Whether intentional or not, cultural literacy is taught through library programs, especially during story time.  Some of the stories that shape the fabric of our society are found in children's picture books.  What is deemed important to teach young children can be shared just through reading a variety of quality books with vivid illustrations to capture their imaginations while instilling cultural knowledge and values.  It's important to select books that honor each cultural viewpoint, and avoid the ones that have overly simplistic or even offensive content.


What kind of limits will a low education place on cultural literacy knowledge?

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