A summary of Building Arab Americans’ Cultural Identity and Acceptance With Children’s
Literature by Tami Craft Al-Hazza and Katherine T.Bucher
Introducing the article Tami &Katherine analyze research which shows that children’s
literature helps in the navigation of emotional, intellectual and social terrains. Through
appreciation of other people’s cultures children can develop and identify their own cultures.
They interviewed Arab American students who were born in the middle east but attended
elementary school in the united states, the results from the interviews showed that Arab
American students are not exposed to stories that reaffirm their culture. The results were
found to be disturbing because having a sense of cultural identity leads to hard work and high
academic performance attributed to seeing oneself positively.
The writers look at the study carried out by James A.Banks which shows that
successful students need to have a sense of identity in order to function effectively in the
society, for this to happen educators need to defend equality and justice for all groups
regardless of the level of stigmatization in the society. They argue that Arab literature is not
sufficiently provided for in schools curriculum to enable the students to fully understand and
appreciate the Arab culture. Through a survey, 82 teachers were asked of their familiarity
with 38 children books 7 of which were Arab. Out of the eighty-two,77% were not familiar
with the Arab books, and only 1% of the books had been used in a classroom.
The authors purpose to educate teachers on Arab culture and how to identify high-quality
literature about Arabs and Arab Americans, for the benefit of Arab students and Non-Arab
students . The information will help broaden the student's view of the world and reduce
BUILDING ARAB AMERICANS CULTURAL IDENTITY WITH CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
stereotypes from forming. An understanding of other people’s cultures leads to respecting
them and coexisting harmoniously.
The researchers give a brief history of Arabs, they are Semitic and come from the
Arabian Peninsula ,with a population of approximately 200 million people. Scholars have
divided Arabs into three major regions, Northern African Arabs,Mediterranean Arabs, and
Arabs from the Arabian Gulf region. The authors give a list of books that can be used by
teachers in schools both printed and those found online.
In the article, they suggest that the best way for teachers to find good books about
Arab cultures is to first develop their own understanding . This may be achieved through
reading adult books to develop their background and later children’s book; however ,this
requires commitment which most teachers do not have.
They give pointers to teachers as to where they can find books to read, one of which is
awards, the Middle East Outreach Council which focuses on books for children. The article
contains a table of online resources from book awards ,lists, and journals that the teachers
may find useful. A list of questions that the teachers should ask is also provided for.
In conclusion, the authors find that the appropriate Arab literature is only the
beginning ,the next step should be absorption into the curriculum. The benefits are that
stereotypes will end, appreciation of diverse cultures leads to a better all-inclusive society.