Author Identifiers

ORCID: 0000-0002-3005-7142

Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

First Advisor

Professor Caroline Barratt-Pugh

Second Advisor

Dr Janet Hunter

Third Advisor

Yvonne Haig

Field of Research Code

130102, 130204

Abstract

Since Australia became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, the importance of recognising, valuing and respecting a child’s family, culture, language and values has been increasingly articulated in education policy. Diversity and inclusion are now central themes guiding the principles and quality measures of early childhood education and care as encompassed by the National Quality Framework, including both the National Quality Standard and the Early Years Learning Framework (Early Childhood Development Steering Committee, 2009). 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 (Boutte, Hopkins, & Waklatsi, 2008), thus having the potential to be a valuable resource in promoting diversity and inclusion in early childhood. However, a body of evidence suggests that the use of children’s literature in early childhood settings does not promote principles of diversity, often serving to promote outdated or stereotypical notions of minority groups.

This study investigated the factors and relationships influencing the use of children’s literature to support principles relating to 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 (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2018) was employed to synthesise the qualitative and quantitative data and 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 four key findings. First, that current book sharing practice in kindergarten rooms of long day care centres promotes monocultural viewpoints and “othering” of minority groups. Second, educators lacked the beliefs, understandings and confidence needed to promote principles of diversity using children’s books. Third, access to books portraying inclusive and authentic cultural diversity was limited. Finally, many children did not have access to the benefits of book sharing and engagement through high quality evidence based practice.

These findings have implications for the meeting of principles of diversity articulated in Australian education policy and curriculum and draw attention to the challenges faced by educators when selecting and using books with young children.

These findings are significant for what they reveal about the relationships between the nature and availability of books together with the nature and quality of educator practice and the involvement and engagement of the children in book sharing in long day care. Findings highlight a need for measures to address each of these factors in order to meet principles of diversity and equity for all children.

The outcomes of this study have implications for educators, policy makers, early childhood organisations and those who provide higher education and training for early childhood educators.

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