All Fifty Kathousand Cousins: Chamorro Teachers Responding to Contemporary Children's Literature Set in Guam
AdvisorShort, Kathy G.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoEmbargo: Release after 9/25/2009
AbstractGrounded in Rosenblatt's transactional theory and Pacific literary theory, this qualitative case study looked at Chamorros teachers' responses to contemporary fiction books as a way of exploring cultural authenticity within a recently emerging genre of children's books. Nine teachers read and responded to eight books that presented a variety of character types, settings, and social issues related to the island of Guam. Guided by three research questions, this study explored what artifacts, images or depictions reflected the lived experiences of the contemporary Chamorro people. Data (transcripts of interviews, literature discussions and participant-generated artifacts) was collected from teachers in a professional development course on children's literature and from individual meetings. Using inductive analysis, the teachers' responses were examined for recurring themes, concepts and words that focused on their personal connections with the books, their cultural understandings, and their perceptions of the portrayal of the Chamorro culture. The teachers' connections drew attention to the ways in which they attempted to use their knowledge about the Chamorro culture to make sense of the stories they read. The teachers' responses to the stories demonstrated that they were making connections to those representations that emphasized and honored their Pacific identity, such as the extended family and how certain traditional practices symbolize the resiliency of the Chamorro people. They also demonstrated how rich cultural images served as prisms that revealed layers of cultural understandings. Finally, the teachers' responses revealed that their decisions regarding the authenticity of a book were mediated by their personal senses of culture as well as by a communal ideology. Not only does this study highlight culturally appropriate representations of the Chamorro people, it also sheds light on the relationship between cultural elements in a story and a culture's value system, and how these two influence the meaning that a reader finds within the story. By highlighting how readers home in on the subtleties of cultural depictions, this study demonstrates how the issue of cultural authenticity can best be understood as a complex matrix of cultural images, a community's value system and personal experiences.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Language, Reading & Culture