Becoming a Multicultural Children’s Writer

By: Irania Patterson 

In my journey as a children’s writer and storyteller I have come across many resources and authors that have taught me a lot about multicultural books. At some point of my career I have to admit I felt confused and upset for the many ways some people misused this term and adapt it to their personal agenda. That´s why I have started a journey to discover the real meaning of being a multicultural writer.

First, I asked myself – Do I want to be label as multicultural writer? Trying to answer this question I discovered first and foremost, I am a multicultural reader open to many possibilities. 

The more I read to children and study their reaction, the more I learn about how we all share the reality of being human beings and have things in common.  In our childhood we connect and as we become adults we tent to disconnect.

When I read aloud to children, I don´t like to give them my personal adult interpretation of that particular story, or what´s in my eyes the moral of the story. No! Quite the opposite, I prompt questions that push thinking outside the box.

I believe a multicultural writer is a human being who thinks outside the box and is honest enough to present a different reality and not a perception of that reality. He or she does not force a message to children, nothing has to be preach because the story talks above the writer´s voice.

I really like this quote given by Hazel Rochman in her book Against Border:

I believe that the best books can make a difference in building community. They can break down borders. And the way that they do that is not with role models and recipes, not with noble messages about the human family, but with enthralling stories that make us imagine the lives of others. A good story lets you know people as individuals in all their particularity and conflict; and once you see someone as a person — their meanness and their courage — then you’ve reached beyond stereotype”

That is why I did not want to be labeled as a Latina person, mother or writer. So when I had my second child I decided to write a book about my childhood so anyone who had a special moment frozen in their memories with great joy will relate to my past, not to my Latino past but to my childhood, perhaps a childhood similar to others?

In my book, Chipi Chipis Cacarolitos del Mar, Chipis Small Shells of the Sea, I did not write about  a Latina child but a child who as many others love  to play in the beach and  believe that nature can talk to you, a child who loves to share time with her father.

 

This 2006 Children Choice Award winner book ( International Readers Association)  talks about a day in the life of a girl and her father who head out to the beach to gather chipi, chipis (small clams) . The story’s implicit poetry expresses this ephemeral moment that marks the most memorable of the girl’s life.

Chipi Chipis Caracolitos del Mar is a multicultural book not because it is written by me who come from another culture and country, not because portrays a tradition from another culture. It is a multicultural book because encourage children to recognize the values that my culture and background have to offer.

I am not interested in writing multicultural books but in fostering multicultural readers. I invite you to open books like Chipi Chipis Small Shells of the Sea and my other bilingual book Wings and Dreams, as well as many other resources we will be sharing in this blog.

“Children are naturally open to everyone. It’s our job to help them cultivate that trait in a safe way. By encouraging children to recognize and enjoy their differences, you will give them a gift for life — the ability to understand the value of what others have to offer.” (Thomas Moore)

 

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