This paper reports on one part of a larger study which investigated the factors and relationships influencing the use of children’s literature to support principles relating to cultural diversity in the kindergarten rooms of long day care centres. This paper reports on the portrayal of cultural diversity, cultural viewpoints and ideologies in the books available and shared in the participant rooms.
This study was conducted within an ontological perspective of constructivism and an epistemological perspective of interpretivism informed by sociocultural theory. A mixed methods approach was adopted and convergent design employed to synthesise the qualitative and quantitative data and interpret significant relationships and their meanings.
This paper reports on the following research question:
What and what types of children’s literature texts are selected to address principles of cultural diversity in the kindergarten rooms of long day care centres?
The research was conducted with ethics approval granted through (Edith Cowan University - Project 10741), participants were given an information letter outlining the purpose of the research and their involvement. They were informed about confidentiality and security and their right to withdraw. All participants agreed to take part and signed a consent form.
The study was conducted in the kindergarten rooms of four long day care centres in Western Australia selected by stratified purposeful sampling. This sampling was informed by data from the 2011 Australian Census (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS] 2011b) in order to select regions of diverse demographics including differing socio-economic profiles, varied ethnic population concentrations and urban and rural communities. Stratified purposeful sampling is particularly useful to study different models of implementing a particular teaching and learning strategy (Suri 2011), in this case, that of book sharing with young children.
Long day care centres in Western Australia provide full-time or part-time care usually for birth to five years in purpose-built or adapted buildings. Long day care centres are owned and managed by non-profit organisations, local councils, community organisations, private operators and employers. All long day care services must be operated in accordance with the Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations (Australian Children's Education and Care Quality Authority [ACECQA] 2012).
Long day care centres typically operate in a multi room facility with children located in rooms according to their age. A typical long day care centre has separate rooms for babies (birth–24 months), toddlers (24–36 months) and kindergarten (36 months–preschool age) children. From 2012, long day care centres with more than 25 children have been required to employ at least one educator who holds an early childhood teaching qualification.
Research participants and selection
Twenty-four educators agreed to take part in the research, with qualifications ranging from an Education Assistant Diploma to a Bachelor of Education. The educators recruited included each centre coordinator and the educators in the kindergarten rooms of the centres. The children in the participating kindergarten room of each centre also participated. The parents of the children were invited to give informed consent for observation of children’s participation and engagement in book sharing and use. There were 110 child participants. The four centres and all participants were assigned pseudonyms to ensure anonymity. For the purpose of this paper, the books available in each centre and the observational data relating to the books shared by educators and children were analysed and reported on.
Data instruments and collection
Data were drawn from an inventory of 2413 children’s books, from 148 video recorded observations of book sharing sessions, and from field notes. Multiple data sources provided opportunities for triangulation of findings thus enabling validation of themes by cross checking information from multiple sources.
Table 1 is an advanced organiser that summarises the research instruments, tools and analysis procedures together with the data collected and the focus of research for each data source. This table also links to the data analysis processes, which will be outlined later in this section.
Table 2 shows the data collection phases of the study and the tools and process implemented during each phase. Following the table, the data sources are described and an explanation of each research tool is given, making connections to research methodology and literature to situate the tool in the context of this study.
An audit was conducted of all children’s books available for sharing in each kindergarten room. A software program called Book Collector was used in conjunction with an ISBN scanning app called CLZ Barry on an iPhone 5 to record the publishing details of the books.
The software package is designed as a commercial package for consumers to record publication details of their book collections. There are additional fields the consumer can choose to customise to suit their purpose and to which they can manually add information. For the purpose of this paper, the customised field of Cultural Diversity Categories was included and analysed.
Cultural diversity categories framework
The Cultural Diversity Categories Framework (See Table 3 in Appendix 1) was developed from the work of Bishop (1992, 1997, 2012; Sims 1982Footnote 1). Bishop’s categories were designed to assess the quality and validity of the portrayal of race and culture in children’s books and have remained constant for over 25 years and been found to be effective by other researchers (Crisp et al. 2016). Bishop’s three categories were ascribed the labels of Culturally Authentic, Culturally Generic and Culturally Neutral. Indicators for each were drawn from Bishop’s work and, in the case of the Culturally Generic Category, one indicator was modified to include the Australian context.
As all children’s books available to be shared were to be included in the book audit, there was a need for categories for those books which did not contain any representation of cultural diversity. There were two additional categories required. The first of these was Solely Caucasian, assigned to books in which only Caucasian people were represented in non-fiction books or as characters in fiction books. The second additional category was that of No People, assigned to books with no human representation such as fictional animal stories or non-fiction texts including concept books and content books.
Viewpoints and ideologies framework
While the Cultural Diversities Categories Framework provided one measure of viewpoints and ideologies in books containing people, a large number of books in the study contained only non-human characters. These, too, portray social viewpoints and ideologies that may be harder to distinguish than books containing people, and identifying these viewpoints and ideologies was important to the study. To carry out this analysis, the Viewpoints and Ideologies Framework was developed from the work of Boutte et al (2008) (Appendix 2).
Using indicators developed by Boutte et al., the Viewpoints and Ideologies Framework was developed to analyse books for ethnicity, gender and social class and affirmation of dominant or non-dominant cultural viewpoints. For the purpose of this paper, the data relating to ethnicity and cultural viewpoints were considered. In their study, Boutte et al. (2008) examined 29 fiction books. In this study, however, there were extensive book collections containing both fiction and non-fiction books so additional indicators for evaluating non-fiction texts were included.
Inter-rater reliability of both instruments was undertaken using a random selection of 34% (n = 14) of the books shared in the first centre (n = 41). Each of the three raters independently read the books and coded them using the two frameworks highlighting relevant indicators. The inter-rater reliability was 100%.
Book sharing sessions’ observation data
Video recorded observations were taken of every book sharing session for a period of five consecutive week days in each centre. For the purpose of this paper, the data used from the observations relate only to the books selected for sharing during the study in order to confirm the books selected for sharing and to confirm the book categorisation results.
Detailed field notes about book selection and participant involvement in book sharing sessions were kept during the study. For the purpose of this paper, the field notes were used to confirm the books selected for sharing and to confirm the book categorisation results.
Publication details of each book were automatically recorded through the software and entered into the Book Collector Database. Then, the Cultural Diversity Categories Framework was applied to each book in order to measure the portrayal of cultural diversity. Books with no people were categorised as No People. Books containing only Caucasian people were categorised as Solely Caucasian. Books containing people from cultures other than Caucasian were analysed by comparing the text and images in the book to the indicators on the Cultural Diversity Categories Framework. Addressing the indicators included analysing images and text for representation and mention of people from non-Caucasian cultures as well as the overall focus or purpose of the book. Books were then assigned the matching Cultural Diversity category and this information was added to the Book Collector database. These categories were Culturally Neutral, Culturally Generic and Culturally Authentic. Indicators for these are contained Table 3 in Appendix 1.
The Viewpoints and Ideologies Framework was then applied to a purposeful sample of all the books shared in Riverview (n = 41). This was undertaken in Riverview in order to confirm the categorisation of the books early in the study. Extensive field notes were subsequently kept throughout the observations in the other three centres to note the viewpoints and ideologies reflected in the books shared in those centres. Following the analysis with the Viewpoints and Ideologies Framework in Riverview, the Cultural Diversity Categories Framework was again consulted to cross check that all categories of books from the Cultural Diversities Categories Framework had been analysed through both instruments. This process identified that the only category of book that was not shared in Riverview during the study, and thus not already analysed through the Viewpoints and Ideologies Framework was that of Culturally Authentic. In the second centre, Community House, books from the Culturally Authentic Category were shared; therefore, a further purposeful sample was undertaken relating to the three Culturally Authentic books shared in Community House. This ensured all Cultural Diversity Categories Framework categories of books were analysed for viewpoints and ideologies using the Viewpoints and Ideologies Framework.
Subsequently, the observation records were analysed to identify the specific books shared during the study and the categories assigned to them through the two instruments. The overall collection of books available across the four centres totalled 2413 books. A total of 221 books were shared across the four centres during the study. Community House was the only centre to use Culturally Authentic books (n = 3).
All data were then quantified through calculating frequencies of each category and converting these to percentages.