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College of Education

Learn. Lead. Inspire. Transform.
Masters in Reading Program
LAE 6316 – Literature in a Diverse Society
Three (3) credit hours

…..We are all cultural beings who should acknowledge the biased cultural basis of all history, who should recognize the political, oppressive intent of those who use labels such as 'normal" or "patriot" to dismiss social groups, and who will act to bring about multicultural change. At the very least, we can communicate these facts through our exploration of all the children's books we read and share. (Patrick Shannon "I Am the Canon." Journal of Children's Literature, 20, 1. p.5)

…..As regards multicultural literature and its definition, I agree with Shannon that to exclude the literature of any group from the body of multicultural literature is to distort the literal meaning of the term. Logically, the body of multicultural literature includes literature from all cultures. [... however ... ] At minimum, it is a demand for inclusion, for opening up the canon to include those who have been traditionally excluded. At best, it is a demand for a complete re-envisioning, reforming, or restructuring of schooling, and ultimately of the society itself. (Rudine Sims Bishop "A Reply to Shannon the Canon." Journal of Children's Literature, 20, 1. pp. 6-7)

Welcome to Literature in a Diverse Society. This course focuses on children’s and young adult literature by and about people from various population groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in children’s and adolescent literature in the United States. We will discuss literature from parallel cultures (including works by and about African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino/as, Native Americans, Middle Eastern Americans, and other ethnic groups), as well as literature by and about population groups traditionally defined by class, religion, ability, gender and sexuality. Course participants will investigate theoretical perspectives, issues, controversies, and classroom implications for these texts.
Students will:

  • Develop an awareness of and appreciation for the importance of diverse literature and its place in the curriculum

  • Become acquainted with a sampling of available literature by and about people representing some of the major parallel cultures in the United States

  • Recognize the power of the images presented to children and adolescents through literature, magazines, advertising and non-print media

  • Become acquainted with professional resources that deal with diverse literature and the associated issues

  • Enhance their ability to read diverse texts both as literary works and as bases for discussions of social issues

This is primarily a discussion-based course and was planned to encourage dialogue and an exchange of views. This sharing process will require you to read, purchase, and bring in a variety of books that you will use to demonstrate and support your developing knowledge. You will be required to purchase the discussion literature and coursepack listed below. (You will find a complete list of readings in the coursepack.) Be sure to pay close attention to the class schedule (see below), to complete your reading before class, and to bring texts and articles to class on the day they are assigned.

TaskStream: TaskStream is a web-based electronic portfolio required of all students in the College of Education (COE) programs. It provides a way to submit documents, called Critical Tasks to instructors for feedback and assessment. The COE uses these assessments to evaluate candidate progress toward meeting standards set by the Florida Department of Education, the faculty and professional organizations. Further, the COE analyzes data from the assessments and uses the data for program planning in order to ensure continuous improvement. Assignments designated as Critical Tasks must be uploaded to your electronic portfolio on TaskStream and be rated with a mean score of 3 or higher in order for you to pass the course. Remember, failure to upload the Critical Task may result in a failing grade.
In this course the critical tasks are:

Essential Assignments: These are assignments that have been aligned with one or more FLDOE curriculum requirements, i.e., ESOL standards, Reading Competencies, or Florida Teacher Competencies/Skills.

  1. Heart of a Chief by Joseph Bruchac

  2. Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye

  3. The Beast by Walter Dean Myers

  4. Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan

  5. A Suitcase of Seaweed by Janet Wong

  6. Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

  7. Confessions of a Closet Catholic by Sarah Darer Littman

  8. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Required coursepack
Websites to Visit: (See syllabus on Blackboard for clickable links)
**Children's Books by and about People of Color Published in the United States

Statistics Gathered by the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC), School of Education of Wisconsin-Madison (

**Asian Pacific American Award for Literature
For books by and about Asian Pacific Americans (Asian Pacific American Librarians Association) (

**Carter G. Woodson Book Awards

For the most distinguished social science books depicting ethnicity in the United States (National Council for the Social Studies) (

**Coretta Scott King Award

For distinguished books by an African American author and an African American illustrator for an outstandingly inspirational and educational contribution (

**Jane Addams Children's Book Award

For promotion of peace, social justice, world community, and/or equality of the sexes and all races (Jane Addams Peace Association/Women's International League for Peace & Freedom) (

**Pura Belpre Award
For the outstanding book by a Latino/a author and a Latino/a artist (American Library Association/Association for Library Services to Children and REFORMA) (

**Sydney Taylor Book Awards
For the best of Jewish children's literature (Association of Jewish Libraries) (

**The Middle East Book Award

For books that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the Middle East (Middle East Outreach Council) (

**Lambda Literary Foundation Award

For books recognized for the quality of the writing and the “LGBT” content of the work. (

**Schneider Family Book Award

For books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.(


*It is my policy to not accept late papers. Please turn in your assignments when they are due. Forgetting them at home, in your car, or forgetting to do them at all hinders the work we can do in class. Because technology is often unpredictable, work diligently to submit assignments as expeditiously as possible.

*I reserve the right to adjust due dates of papers and assignments as necessary.

*I do not give extra credit unless it is offered to the entire class, so make sure you complete all assignments carefully.

Things that are inappropriate:

*Cell phone use (including text messaging) during class (Bring a watch if you want to check the time)

*Using laptops for any purpose other than note taking and course activities

*Inattentive/Rude/Disrespectful/Immature behavior (including – but not limited to – sleeping, sarcasm, disengagement in classroom activities and discussions, etc.)

*Consistent/Excessive tardies

*Not bringing proper materials to class

*Working on other materials in my class
Things that are out of my control:

*Your bus/transportation schedule

*Your class schedule

*Your work schedule

*Your family schedule

Autobiographical Poem – 5 points

Critical Questioning Papers – 9 points each (36 points total)

P.S.” Points – 1 point each (8 points total)

Questioning the Critical Questioning Papers – 21 points

Final Project – 20 Points Total

Attendance/Preparation/Participation – 10 points
Autobiographical Poem – 5 points total

A close reading of a poem goes beyond circling the metaphors and defining the allusions—it explores what the words, images, and themes reveal about the poet, her cultural background, and her life. Given the chance to hypothesize and to play with the possibilities in the text, you can go beyond identifying simple and obvious characteristics to explore the poet in more depth. In the case of a poem by Nikki Giovanni, for instance, you can move from “identify[ing] the speaker as black and from the country” to “think[ing] about what [you] can tell from the poem about [the speaker’s] attitudes, about what [you] think might be [the speaker’s] priorities in life” (Jago, 1999, p. 11). We will be reading and reflecting upon several autobiographical poems on the first day of class. As you read and listen, ask yourself whether or not parts of these poems felt familiar to you. How are your own life experiences – the details that make up your own cultural background -- similar to or different from those experiences the poets wrote about? The Tatum (2000) article will ask you to consider your social identities and how they position you in society. (This will help us think about how we are positioned as readers.)

Create a poem that explores your cultural and/or social identity or identities. You may use one of the poems discussed in class as an inspiration for your poem, or you may write one using a different format entirely. The most successful poems tend to be focused and include specific details and concrete illustrations.
Information for this assignment had been adapted from classroom ideas presented in:

Jago, Carol (1999). Nikki Giovanni in the Classroom: “the same ol danger but a brand new pleasure.” The NCTE High School Literature Series. Urbana: NCTE.

Gardner, T. (2002-2005). Childhood remembrances: Life and art intersect in Nikki Giovanni’s

Nikki-Rosa”. Retrieved June 9, 2005, from
Due on January 20, 2010

Book Discussion (Critical Questioning) – 44 points

In this course, you will be participating in discussion groups throughout your time spent in this class. Similar to literature discussion circles found in many classrooms, these groups will discuss the eight books that you are required to purchase for this portion of the course: Heart of a Chief, Habibi, The Beast, Becoming Naomi Leon, Project Mulberry, Al Capone Does my Shirts, Confessions of a Closet Catholic, and Boy Meets Boy. The book discussion groups will be comprised of five students and will meet eight times. You will write Critical Questioning Papers in conjunction with four of your eight discussion group meetings.

  • Critical Questioning Papers – 9 points/paper (36 points), plus 8 possible “P.S.” points: In this course you will “question” the eight diverse books you are required to read for this class. Each student in a group will write a “Critical Questioning” paper for four out of the eight times your group meets. Everyone will write a paper for the discussions marked with an asterisk (*) below and on the Course Schedule included in this syllabus. Early in the semester, you will be assigned two additional discussions for which you are required to write papers. (You will respond as an “A,” “B,” or “C”). In these papers, you will propose a question you think is important to ask of the book, as well as explaining where the question came from and a rationale for why you think the question is important. This assignment is designed to provide you with an opportunity to respond to and reflect upon the books themselves. It’s expected that ideas presented in assigned readings and your own experience will impact the way you think and write about the books. These four responses will be written up before class and turned in on the day of the discussions. They will be worth 9 points apiece. After all eight discussions you will have an opportunity to earn an additional point for writing an in-class reflection. You will receive a handout detailing expected paper contents, along with a rubric summarizing evaluation information, early in the semester.

The dates of the discussion meetings and the paper due dates are as follows:
* January 27th Critical Questioning Paper & Discussion I

A February 10th Critical Questioning Paper & Discussion II

B February 17th Critical Questioning Paper & Discussion III

C March 13th Critical Questioning Paper & Discussion IV

A March 24st Critical Questioning Paper & Discussion V

B March 31th Critical Questioning Paper & Discussion VI

C April 7h Critical Questioning Paper & Discussion VII

* April 14th Critical Questioning Paper & Discussion VIII
Papers are due by noon on the day of each discussion. By this time you will need to submit your Critical Questioning paper, as an attachment, to the appropriate Blackboard drop box. (You will also need to bring a hard copy to class to hand in). The electronic versions will allow me to skim the papers before class and get a sense of the group’s questions as a whole. To help me keep track of papers, please name attachments in the following way:

For example: Crisp_Heart_LAE6316

  • Reflecting on the Questions: A Final Paper – 21 Points Total. In this paper, you will be expected to discuss in detail the questions you posed over the course of the semester. You should use this piece to take stock of your thinking and learning about culturally diverse children's and adolescent literature throughout the class. This final reflection should include references to the questions you posed about the diverse books you read and your “P.S.” reflections, along with an analysis of how and why those questions changed over time. Questions to consider: Is there a pattern to the kinds of questions you asked of diverse literature? Did any of the questions mention class readings or other outside influences? How do these questions provide evidence of your increasing knowledge of ways to read and think about diverse children’s and adolescent literature? This paper is due to the Blackboard dropbox on or before Wednesday, May 5th by noon. You will receive a handout detailing expected reflection topics, along with a rubric summarizing evaluation information, later in the semester. Please note that you will be required to attach all of your “Critical Questioning” papers to this final paper, so don’t lose them over the course of the semester!

Final Project: Focusing on Literature of a Traditionally Underrepresented Group (Essential Assignment) – 20 Points Total

For your final project you will learn about one cultural group using children’s literature (picture books and novels, fiction and nonfiction). Please do not use traditional literature such as fairy tales, folktales, folklore, etc. You will read at least 3-5 picture books and/or novels, each written by a different writer (The writers chosen must belong to the cultural group you are studying.). Create a 1-2 page handout for your peers by including a summary of what you think readers can learn about the cultural group depicted in the books, along with an annotated bibliography of the texts and sources you read and used. On the last day of class (Wednesday, April 28th) you will bring in the books you read and used, briefly share what you found in your project, and distribute copies of the handout (approximately 25) you created for the class. You will receive a handout describing this assignment in detail, along with a rubric summarizing evaluation information, later in the semester.

Attendance, Preparation, & Participation – 10 Points Total

It is essential that you not only attend each class session (and be on time!), but that you are also prepared to be an active class participant. An important aspect of any classroom learning community is the active engagement of students and teachers around worthwhile content. Your contributions to class discussions and activities are essential to your learning as well as to the health and learning of our own classroom community. It is your responsibility to attend all class sessions, prepared to be an active participant by having completed the assigned readings and related written assignments prior to class. Additionally, you will be expected to be an active class participant who raises relevant questions, makes contributions that promote discussion, is sensitive to eliciting the ideas of others in the class, and actively engages in small group work. Your attendance, preparation, and participation will contribute 10 points to your final grade.
Much of this course depends upon the active engagement of learners around worthwhile content. One of the things a class such as this can offer is the unique opportunity to share (and view) a variety of teaching techniques and styles. As such, students will be asked to engage their colleagues in discussion and learning of some key course ideas. As you read each week, think of ways in which you could incorporate the ideas in your “actual” classroom; be prepared to share these ideas with others each week. Think of this as an opportunity to help your classmates increase their understanding of course content – as well as a chance to expand the toolkit of ideas you have for your own classroom.
For some people sharing their thoughts in a public forum feels “risky.” However, part of developing as professionals involves sharing your ideas and engaging in the ideas of others. Think of this classroom as a safe environment in which to take some chances/risks: try some things out (ideas, lessons, etc.) in an environment that is safe. I am also aware that three hours is an extended period of time in which to be focused in class. Please come ready to work hard and focus for the entire time class is scheduled to meet. I, in turn, will do my best to plan classes that are engaging. ☺ Attendance is expected at all class sessions. You will be responsible for all material covered in class. If an assignment is due on a day you are absent, you should email me the assignment prior to the time class meets. I recognize that situations may arise during the semester which prevent you from attending class (e.g. illness, family or personal issues). Therefore, you are allowed one absence for whatever reason. This will not affect your grade. However, if you miss more than one class, your participation grade will be reduced by five points for each additional absence. A maximum of two absences are permitted across the course. More than two absences (for any reason) may result in a failing grade for the course. Tardiness and early departure from class will be noted and documented and may also reduce your participation grade.


Your final grade for the semester will be based on written assignments and your class attendance and participation.
Students who anticipate the necessity of being absent from class due to the observation of a major religious observance must provide notice of the date(s) to the instructor, in writing, by the second class meeting.
Academic Honesty: Universities rely on exchange of information and ideas; therefore, academic honesty is crucial to the ability of a university community to meet its mission of extending learning. In accordance with the University of South Florida Academic Dishonesty and Disruption of Academic Process policy (available at “each individual is expect to earn his/her degree on the basis of personal effort…any form of cheating…or plagiarism…constitutes unacceptable deceit and dishonesty…This cannot be tolerated in the University community and will be punishable…”(p. 1 of 5 Please review this policy for definitions and consequences of plagiarism, cheating and disruption of academic process. Papers may be checked for precise references. Dishonesty erodes trust and it is upon trusting relationships that deep learning occurs.

Detection of Plagiarism: The University of South Florida has an account with an automated plagiarism detection service which allows instructors to submit student assignments to be checked for plagiarism.   I reserve the right to 1) request that assignments be submitted to me as electronic files and 2) electronically submit assignments to, or 3) ask students to submit their assignments to through myUSF.  Assignments are compared automatically with a database of journal articles, web articles, and previously submitted papers.   The instructor receives a report showing exactly how a student's paper was plagiarized.   For more information about SafeAssignment and plagiarism, go to and click on Plagiarism Resources. For information about plagiarism in USF's undergraduate catalogue, got to:
The written work that you hand in should be quality work, both in its content and form. The content of your written work should always reflect your careful and thoughtful consideration of the ideas we are exploring in the various readings and activities that we use – and you should refer to these where this serves to support your ideas. This does not mean you need to write pages and pages for these assignments, but it does mean you should carefully craft what you write - be clear, succinct, and support what you say. Your work should be typed, double-spaced, and presented in an edited format (you have checked it for spelling and grammar.) Point deductions will be taken for excessive grammatical or spelling errors.

The grading scale will be approximately as follows:
“A” (90-100 points): reflects exemplary work, knowledge, and skill in meeting the performance objectives – participant went beyond requirements, is analytical, reflective and professional in stance, and demonstrated a strong understanding of reading comprehension. 94-100 = “A”; 90-93 = “A-”
“B” (80-89 points): reflects good, competent work, knowledge, and skill in meeting the performance objectives. Participant demonstrates a good understanding of reading comprehension. 87-89 = “B+”; 84-86 = “B”; 80-83 = “B-”
“C” (70-79): reflects satisfactory/adequate work, knowledge, and skill in meeting the performance objectives; minimal requirements have been met successfully. Participant demonstrates a minimal understanding of comprehension. 77-79 = “C+”; 74-76 = “C”;

70-73 = “C-”

“D” (60-69): reflects inadequate work, knowledge, and skill in meeting the performance objectives; minimal requirements have generally been met. Participant demonstrates a minimal understanding of reading comprehension. 67-69 = “D+”; 64-66 = “D”; 60-63 = “D-”
Below 60: fails the course
Each assignment will be graded separately and the graded assignments will be combined to reach a final grade for this section. At any point, any attendance deductions will be taken. Please note, a grade of “A” is considered exceptional work, a grade of “B” is considered good work and a “C” is considered to be adequate work.
NOTE: In accordance with the USF Graduate Studies Catalog, no grade below “C” will be accepted toward a graduate degree. This includes “C-”grades.
It is the responsibility of each student to obtain class notes, handouts and assignments from a fellow student in the event of an absence. Please do not email me and ask me to “fill you in” on what you missed while you were away (I should be a last resort).
Disabilities Accommodation: Students are responsible for registering with the Office of Students with Disabilities Services (SDS) in order to receive academic accommodations. Reasonable notice must be given to the SDS office (typically 5 working days) for accommodations to be arranged. It is the responsibility of the student to provide each instructor with a copy of the official Memo of Accommodation. Contact Information: Pat Lakey, Coordinator, 941-359-4714,,
CAMPUS EMERGENCIES AND THE CLOSING OF CAMPUS: In the event of an emergency, it may be necessary for USF to suspend normal operations.  During this time, USF may opt to continue delivery of instruction through methods that include but are not limited to: Blackboard, Elluminate, Skype, and email messaging and/or an alternate schedule. It’s the responsibility of the student to monitor Blackboard site for each class for course specific communication, and the main USF, College, and department websites, emails, and MoBull messages for important general information. The USF hotline at 1 (800) 992-4231 is updated with pre-recorded information during an emergency. See the Safety Preparedness Website for further information.

Fire Alarm Instructions: At the beginning of each semester please note the emergency exit maps posted in each classroom. These signs are marked with the primary evacuation route (red) and secondary evacuation route (orange) in case the building needs to be evacuated. See Emergency Evacuation Procedures.





Session 1:
Wednesday, 1/13/10

  • Introductions

  • Course overview

  • Introduce autobiographical poetry

  • Reader response theory

  • Evaluating literature

Session 2:


  • Introduction to multiculturalism: What is multiculturalism? Why is multicultural children’s literature important? What is the history behind multicultural children’s literature?

  • Bishop (1997)

  • Yenika-Agbaw (1997)

  • Tatum (2000)

  • Visit the CCBC website

Due: Autobiographical Poem

Session 3:
Wednesday, 1/27/10

  • Children’s literature by and about Native Americans

  • Book Discussion I

  • Cortes (2001)

  • Reese (1997)

  • Smith (2005)

  • Heart of a Chief


  • Visit

  • Visit Cynthia Leitich Smith’s website

Guest Speaker:

Debbie Reese

*Due: Critical Questioning Paper #1

Session 4:
Wednesday, 2/3/10

  • Insider/Outsider debate: Who has a right to tell and illustrate stories about specific cultures? What is "authentic" literature or, for that matter, “diverse or multicultural literature"? Who gets to define these things?

  • Expanding the definition of multiculturalism

The following are part of an on-going discussion. Read them in order!:

  • Shannon (1994)

  • Sims Bishop (1994)

  • Harris (1994)

  • Cai (1998)

Guest Speaker:

Debbie Reese

Session 5:
Wednesday, 2/10/10

  • Children’s literature by and about Middle Eastern Americans

  • Book Discussion II

  • Al-Hazza and Lucking (2005)

  • Al-Hazza (2006)

  • Staples (1997)

  • Habibi

Due: Critical Questioning Paper #2 (A)

Session 6:
Wednesday, 2/17/10

  • Children’s Literature by and About African Americans

  • Book Discussion III

  • Harris (1997)

  • Woodson (2003)

  • The Beast

Due: Critical Questioning Paper #3 (B)

Session 7:
Wednesday, 2/24/10

  • Award winners in multicultural literature

  • Share ideas for final project

  • Aronson (2000)

  • Pinkney (2001)

  • Visit book award websites

Due: Award site jigsaw

Session 8:
Wednesday, 3/3/10

  • Children’s literature by and about Latino/a Americans

  • Book Discussion IV

  • Ada, (2003)

Due: Critical Questioning Paper #4 (C)

Spring Break!
No class on Wednesday, 3/10/10

Session 9:
Wednesday, 3/17/10

  • Multiculturalism in literacy instruction

  • Kuhlman (2000)

  • Mendoza and Reese (2001)

Session 10:
Wednesday, 3/24/10

  • Children’s literature by and about Asian Pacific Americans

  • Book Discussion V

  • Share final project topics

  • Siu-Runyan (2002)

  • Yamate (1997)

  • Suitcase of Seaweed

Due: Critical Questioning Paper #5 (A)

Session 11:
Wednesday, 3/31/10

  • Children’s literature by and about Americans with special needs

  • Book Discussion VI

  • Tal (2001)

  • Williams, et al (2005)

  • Smart (2001)

  • Al Capone Does My Shirts

Due: Critical Questioning Paper #6 (B)

Session 12:
Wednesday, 4/7/10

  • Children’s literature by and about Jewish Americans

  • Book Discussion VII

  • Silver (2002)

  • Kimmel (2003)

  • Confessions of a Closet Catholic

Due: Critical Questioning Paper #7 (C)

Session 13:
Wednesday, 4/14/10

  • Children’s literature by and about Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (GLBTQ) Americans

  • Book Discussion VIII

  • McLean (1997) article

  • Levithan (2004)

  • Crisp (2009)

  • Boy Meets Boy


  • Crisp (2008)

*Due: Critical Questioning Paper #8

No class
Wednesday, 4/21/10
Work on final project and paper

  • Work on final project and final Critical Questioning paper

Session 14:
Wednesday, 4/28/10

  • Compiling our final list of questions

    • Small group

    • Large group

  • Sharing final projects

Due: Final Project Handout and presentation

Wednesday, 5/5/10

Finals Week – we will not meet unless a class earlier in the semester had to be cancelled unexpectedly.

Due: Submit final Critical Questioning paper to Blackboard drop box by noon

Please note: This syllabus is subject to change due to unanticipated opportunities or conditions if the instructor believes such changes are in the students' best interests.

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