The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Identifying Opportunities for Content Knowledge Development in Multicultural Children’s Books for Children in Elementary Schools

Shelley Xu, California State University, Long Beach (United States)


Effective comprehension of an informational text requires a reader to have adequate background knowledge on the content of the text, and not all readers have such knowledge. Knowledge gap is most evident in struggling readers, children of color, immigrant children, and children from poverty. A lack of content knowledge affects children’s comprehension of texts in various subjects [3],  leading to children’s limited access to opportunities for developing deep content knowledge through high-level academic texts.  Scholars have urged teachers to address the knowledge gap and to stimulate children’s intellectual development on various subjects [1, 2]. Multicultural children’s books can serve the above purpose. They can enhance children’s understanding and appreciation of others whose cultures, perspectives, and experiences are different from theirs [1]. Additionally, multicultural children’s books, like books on a subject (e.g., the solar system), offer children opportunities to extend their learning beyond books and to gain some content knowledge relevant to books that they are reading. For example, the book, Crown: An Ode to The Fresh Cut describes a Black boy’s experience of getting a haircut in a barbershop. This book presents readers with an opportunity to go beyond this book and learn about barbershop culture in a Black community and its history via other books or online information. This type of learning helps children gain knowledge in history and geography, in addition to learning about this Black boy’s experience. This exploratory study aims to show that multicultural children’s books are not just for enjoyment of characters’ cultural experiences, and that such books also offer opportunities for developing elementary school children’s content knowledge. A content analysis of 40 books (8 books per grade level; 1st-5th grades) was conducted. For each book, the researcher identified as many opportunities for content knowledge development as possible. The findings from this study indicate1) that each book has at least two opportunities for children to learn beyond the book about content knowledge; 2) that opportunities for content knowledge development in some books focus mainly on history and social sciences while opportunities in other books include various subjects (e.g., science, math); 3) that some content knowledge relevant to books can be challenging as content knowledge is not always developmentally appropriate. Detailed findings and implications of this study will be shared at the conference presentation.

Multicultural children’s books, content knowledge, reading instruction, elementary school children

[1]   Lazar, A. M., & Schmidt, P. R. (Eds.). (2018). School of promise for multilingual students: Transforming literacies, learning and lives. Teachers College Press.

[2]   Muhammad, Gholdy (2020). Cultivating genius: An equity framework for culturally and historically responsive literacy. Scholastic.

[3]   Wexler, N. (2019). The knowledge gap: The hidden cause of America’s broken education system—and how to fix. Avery.



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