A Critical Content Analysis of International Travel Experiences in Children's Literature
Language, Reading & Culture
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study examines representations of intercultural learning in global children’s literature through critical content analysis. Cosmopolitanism provides a vision to connect individuals to the global communities through a critical lens. According to Rizvi (2009), intercultural learning should bridge the local and the global, move between cultures and communities, and develop transnational compassion and collaboration. Intercultural learning involves explorations of culture, active participation in the world, and critical thinking on issues that are normally taken for granted. Intercultural learning is not just learning about other cultures but focuses on individuals’ awareness of their roles in the world and collaboration with people from global communities to make the world a better place. With this idea in mind, global children’s literature is a useful resource to introduce readers to the global community and to their responsibility in the world. This study is based on the importance of engaging with high quality global children’s literature to widen and deepen readers’ worldviews. Because readers are influenced by what they read and share, how books depict cross cultural experiences and international communities is crucial. Therefore, how books portray intercultural learning experiences in a global context is important to examine. This study provides a new lens on global children’s literature because limited research has been done to understand how the idea of intercultural learning through international travel is portrayed in books at a time when many readers have the opportunity to travel across the continents. The theoretical framework of this study consists of intercultural theories, global competency and critical literacy. This study looks at culture as ways of living that involve people’s thoughts, values and engagements in daily life. In addition, two intercultural learning theories are used to examine the protagonists’ learning including a continuum of intercultural learning by David Hoopes (1979) and a developmental model of intercultural sensitivity by Milton Bennett (1986, 1993, 2004, 2009). Theories relate to global education such as global competence by Hanvey (2000) and Case (1993), intercultural communicative competence by Michael Byram (1997), and cosmopolitanism by Rizvi (2005, 2006,2007, 2008, 2009 ) and Calhoun (2002). These theories inform my notion of intercultural learning in different ways. In addition, critical literacy is crucial to this study because it focuses on the characteristics that allow individuals to discover their role, relationship and responsibility with others in the world. Nine children and young adult’s realistic fiction novels were selected for this study. The books all involved protagonists’ explorations of new cultures, places, and people as they traveled to another country for short term visits. All of them have close relationships with at least one local friend. Critical content analysis is used to examine the text from a critical point of view to understand whether the international journey enables the protagonists to critically examine their privileges and responsibility in the world. In this study, critical literacy supports my concept of intercultural learning and it is also used to develop useful thinking tools (adapted from Jones, 2006) to examine the texts from a deeper perspective. First, the findings indicate that intercultural learning is portrayed with exoticism in this text set. In several of the books, international travel is associated with romance and exotic cultural icons. Secondly, insider authors and the authors who have close relationships with the groups they write about are more careful about cultural authenticity than outsider authors. Many of the insider authors care about the cultures they wrote about; therefore, they embed social messages in the stories. Additionally, several writers employ a writing formula to depict international travelers’ intercultural learning process. The formula does not reflect readers’ diverse cultural backgrounds in the current world. Lastly, throughout the journey, only a few protagonists develop critical consciousness regarding their roles in the global community. Conclusions from the analysis suggest the need for more sophisticated global children’s literature that highlights international travel and cross cultural relationships. The implication section provides recommendations to educators, teacher educators, and publishers and suggestions for further research.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Language, Reading & Culture