Date of Award
Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership for Learning Dissertations
Dr. Raynice Jean-Sigur
First Committee Member
Dr. Natasha Thornton
Second Committee Member
Dr. Camille Sutton Brown Fox
Education in America is facing many challenges, such as the adoption of common core standards and the demand for highly qualified teachers (Darling-Hammond, 2010). Further, the achievement gap lingers on, with Black males often performing poorly on national assessments of reading proficiency (Tatum, 2005). Although Black males are highly literate, they may feel alienated from traditional school systems and classroom reading selections (Kirkland, 2013). One of the most effective strategies for teachers to bridge the gap in reading is to inspire Black males to get engaged with their books and read for longer periods of time. However, children are more likely to engage with characters who look like them, and it is difficult to find books with Black male characters (Ladson-Billings, 1995; Noguera, 2008; Sims, 1982; Tatum, 2005).
The purpose of this dissertation is to identify more culturally conscious children’s books with Black male characters. It is a qualitative study, a critical content analysis of multicultural children’s books. The study has been guided by Multicultural Education Theory and Rudine Sim’s theory of Windows, Mirrors and Sliding Glass Doors (1982). The books I analyzed were selected from a website sponsored by the Conscious Kid. This organization’s goal is to cultivate a list of children’s books that affirm and celebrate Black males. Convenient access to such a list on the Internet would serve to help teachers find culturally conscious books for culturally relevant teaching. Three research questions guided my study:
1) How are Black male characters in books from the Conscious Kid website portrayed?
2) How, if at all, is the content of the books aligned with the mission of the Conscious Kid organization?
3) What are the overarching themes of the books on the list?
I found that the Black characters in books from the Conscious Kid website were portrayed in a positive and empowered light, and the books’ contents were aligned with the mission. They also revealed a host of sociopolitical themes. These themes were: the importance of family and parent/child relationships; perseverance to overcome adversity; fighting for equality and civil rights; the importance of church and spirituality; growing up and coming of age; the prevalence of mental health issues; the importance of education; and working class struggles. These books provided a microcosm of Black life in America. I also used a rubric adapted from literacy researchers to determine whether or not the books were of high quality (Hefflin & Barksdale-Ladd, 2001). I concluded that these selections are high quality culturally conscious books that would make an appropriate addition to a classroom library.
Keywords: Black males, critical content analysis, elementary students, multicultural education, multicultural literature, reading, windows and mirrors