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Ethnic Books a Blind Spot for Some Pre-K Teachers

Preschool teachers may love to read to their students, but those quizzed by a Missouri professor couldn't name stories with ethnic minorities in them when asked, vitally important knowledge in a nation where 40 percent of students are non-white.

A group of more than 100 current and future educators in Shelby County, Tenn., could identify no tales about Asians, Native Americans, Latinos, or multicultural people, said Sabrina A. Brinson, associate professor of early childhood education and child development in the College of Education at Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo. Brinson published the outcomes in the Winter 2012 edition of Multicultural Education, a journal available by subscription.

Furthermore, a majority of the 113 participants surveyed—many of whom teach Head Start, which often caters to minorities—could name only two books about African Americans.

That's a huge problem, Brinson said, because children of color need to hear stories that reflect their race and life experience. Doing so boosts their self-esteem, she added.

There's enough blame to go around, the professor said. Book publishers don't print nearly as many books with minority characters as they do about white people, teacher preparation programs don't concentrate on those that are available, and teachers themselves don't take the time to seek them out, she said.

"A primary goal in early-childhood programs is to welcome and embrace the diversity of children and families in today's multicultural society," Brinson said.

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