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Reading books can encourage cultural compassion
January 15, 2018

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"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." - Harper Lee, "To Kill a Mockingbird"

Even in an age of social media, books are and always will be an important aspect in a child's life. While reading is the basic foundation for developing literacy skills, fostering language fluency, and achieving a higher aptitude of learning, it also encourages children to use their imaginations, expand their vocabularies, and develop appreciation for different cultures. Exploring culture through books during a child's formative years will indoctrinate them with the necessary morals and ethics to live productively in the world. In today's society, where those attributes are lacking, it is more important than ever to teach children the importance of acceptance and respect.

Children become culturally sensitive when they are surrounded by adults who demonstrate that virtue. It is important for parents to introduce kids to multicultural books so they can learn to dispel stereotypes, develop compassion for others, and gain a broader view of the world surrounding them. Multicultural children's literature helps kids understand that people are people regardless of their individual characteristics. We're all capable of feeling emotions and we all deserve respect and kindness.

In general, when choosing a good children's book, several characteristics should be present. A worthwhile story should contain characters who evoke strong emotion, thought provoking vocabulary, and excellent pictorial interpretation of the story. In addition, good multicultural children's books will challenge stereotypes and promote a realistic glimpse into the lives of diverse groups of people. By providing children with accurate and positive representations of the many cultural groups that make up the society in which they live, books can help children learn to identify diverse populations and be accepting of each and every person they meet.

A child's increased exploration of multicultural books will embolden their compassion and empathy for others. Being exposed to different cultural groups will hopefully inspire children to speak up for what is right. They might feel more encouraged to stand up for their classmates or friends who might be getting bullied, help adults to be more open-minded, and acquire lifelong benevolence of their own.

Typhani Russo is the Children's Services Supervisor at the Altoona Area Public Library. Check out her segment, "Typh's Picks" on WTAJ's Central PA Live for book recommendations.

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