An Evaluation Tool for Multicultural Literature

The following is excerpted from Jennifer Johnson Higgins’s research project.

  • High literary quality.
  • No distortions or omissions of history. Look for various perspectives to be represented.
  • Stereotyping. There are no negative or inaccurate stereotypes of the ethnic group being portrayed.
  • Loaded words. There are no derogatory overtones to the words used to describe the characters and culture, such as “savage,” primitive,” “lazy,” and “backward.”
  • Lifestyles. The lifestyles of the characters are genuine and complex, not oversimplified or generalized.
  • Dialogue. The characters use speech that accurately represents their oral tradition.
  • Standards of success. The characters are strong and independent, not helpless or in need of the assistance of a white authority figure. Characters do not have to exhibit extraordinary qualities, or do more than a white character to gain acceptance and approval.
  • The role of females, elders, and family. Women and the elderly are portrayed accurately within their culture. The significance of family is portrayed accurately for the culture.
  • Possible effects on a child’s self-image. There is nothing in the story that would embarrass or offend a child whose culture is being portrayed. A good rule of thumb: you would be willing to share this book with a mixed-race group of children?
  • Author’s and/or illustrator’s background. The author and/or illustrator have the qualifications needed to deal with the cultural group accurately and respectfully, and are most likely a member of the cultural group being portrayed in the story.
  • Illustrations. The illustrations do not generalize about or include stereotypes of a cultural group and it’s people. The characters are depicted as genuine individuals. Characters of the same ethnic group do not all look alike, but show a variety of physical attributes.
  • Relationships between characters from different cultures. Minority characters are leaders within their community and solve their own problems. Whites do not possess the power while cultural minorities play a supporting or subservient role.
  • Heroines and Heroes. Heroines and heroes are accurately defined according to the concepts of and struggles for justice appropriate to their cultural group. They are not those who avoid conflict with and thus benefit the white majority.
  • Copyright date. During the mid- and late 1960’s most books on minority themes were written by white authors and reflected a white, middle-class, mainstream point of view. More recently (beginning in the 1970’s) books began to reflect a pluralistic society. The copyright date of a book may be one clue as to the possible biases to be found within it (Day, 1994).