The challenge of monoculturalism: What books are educators sharing with children and what messages do they send?
The Australian Educational Researcher
School of Education
The importance of recognising, valuing and respecting a child’s family, culture, language and values is increasingly articulated in educational policy. Diversity and inclusion are central themes of the guiding principles of early childhood education and care in Australia. Children’s literature can be a powerful tool for extending children’s knowledge and understandings of themselves and others who may be different culturally, socially or historically. However, evidence suggests many settings provide monocultural book collections which are counterproductive to principles of diversity. This paper reports on a larger study investigating factors and relationships influencing the use of children’s literature to support principles of cultural diversity in the kindergarten rooms of long day care centres. The study was conducted within an ontological perspective of constructivism and an epistemological perspective of interpretivism informed by sociocultural theory. A mixed methods approach was adopted and convergent design was employed to interpret significant relationships and their meanings. Twenty-four educators and 110 children from four long day care centres in Western Australia participated. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews, video-based observations, field notes, document analysis and a book audit. This study identified that current book collections in these four kindergarten rooms of long day care centres promote monocultural viewpoints and ‘othering’ of minority groups through limited access to books portraying inclusive and authentic cultural diversity. These findings have important social justice implications. The outcomes of this study have implications for educators, policy makers, early childhood organisations and those providing higher education and training for early childhood educators.