, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 168-188
Date: 10 Apr 2010

Conveying a Stance of Religious Pluralism in Children’s Literature

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Abstract

Religious discrimination is a global concern, as social dissonance and devastating violence result from religious intolerance. In order to develop socially competent, global citizens and create a peaceful society, religious diversity must be explored in public school classrooms; yet it remains a controversial and seldom addressed topic. Children’s literature that conveys religious pluralism can help teachers start this crucial conversation. A content analysis of 14 religiously pluralistic texts was conducted to understand how children’s authors enact a pluralistic stance. Findings indicate that fiction authors employ five main archetypes to express messages of religious pluralism: the questioner, one truth believer, counterpoint character, atheist, and coach. Both fiction and nonfiction authors confront issues of religiously disguised violence, provide educational information about religious beliefs and practices, emphasize commonalities between religions, maintain an assertive and respectful voice when describing religious beliefs, and highlight the existence of multiple spiritual paths. Implications of these findings for classroom practice are discussed.

Jennifer Sanders is an Assistant Professor of Literacy Education at Oklahoma State University where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate literacy courses. Her research interests include K-12 writing instruction, connections between the arts and writing, nonfiction literacy, and multicultural children’s literature.
Kris Foyil is a doctoral student in Professional Education Studies at Oklahoma State University with an emphasis in literacy education. She is also a clinical faculty member at the University of Tulsa in the Department of Communication Disorders. Her dissertation research is focused on exploring the nonfiction literacy development of toddler and preschool aged children.
Jennifer M. Graff is an assistant professor in the Language and Literacy Education department at The University of Georgia in Athens where her teaching and scholarship focuses on critical analyses of children’s literature and reading engagement.