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Selecting Picture Books
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Picture books may serve as excellent resources for helping adolescent students learn more about cultural differences because of one of the basic functions of children's literature. For centuries the books used to teach reading have also served as a means of transmitting cultural values, concerning areas such as religion, work, and patriotism, to the youngest members of society (Resnick and Resnick). Given the close connection that exists between children's books and cultural transmission, I decided to have my students read African picture books to learn more about Africa before studying Things Fall Apart.
In selecting picture books to use in my classroom, I was particularly interested in finding books that would challenge students' existing notions of Africa. Since Things Fall Apart is set in Nigeria, I wanted books that focused on that area. However, I recognized that it might be difficult to find a text set that dealt exclusively with one country, so Jared and I decided to look primarily for books set in Western Africa with the caveat that if we found good books set in other parts of the Tag Heuer Replica continent, we'd consider including them to support the students' study of the entire continent in their World History class. It was also important to us that the books be both accurate and culturally authentic. However, no generally accepted, established guidelines exist for establishing the cultural authenticity of a work (Bishop; Guevara), and neither Jared nor I had firsthand knowledge of Africa. In discussing how to establish the cultural authenticity of our books, we decided that the most important feature we could examine was the author's ability to understand the perspective of the people from the culture he or she wrote about (Cai). We therefore decided to rely on the background of the authors themselves to help us establish cultural accuracy and authenticity. I began our selection process by searching for books written by African authors or by people who had spent an extended amount of time living in the country in which their books were set.
After spending several weeks acquiring books from libraries and bookstores, Jared and I began narrowing our collection. We divided the books in half, and for each book, we listed the title, author, country in which the Tag Heuer Carrera Replica book is set, possible curricular connections, and awards won. After we had charted and discussed each book, we decided on a text set of 13 books to use in our classrooms (see fig. 1). Eight of these picture books, written by Ifeoma Onyefulu, include a variety of modern photographs of the Igbo.
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