Representation of Racial Diversity in Picturebooks in Teacher Education Programs in the Republic of Croatia


Abstract


In the Republic of Croatia, the importance of intercultural education and competence-oriented curricula has gained momentum in the last decade, with children’s literature being perceived as an invaluable source of intercultural learning and a fruitful tool for an exploration of global cultural diversity. Given that empirical data indicate the importance of children’s age for selecting age-appropriate intervention methods that would help combat discriminatory and prejudicial views, especially during the period between early and late childhood, this paper explores the choice of authors and picturebook titles taught in children’s literary courses at six Croatian Faculties of Teacher Education (Rijeka, Pula, Zagreb, Osijek, Zadar, and Split) with the aim to determine how university instructors interpret multicultural children’s literature and to which extent their syllabi accentuate the potential of picturebooks in fostering future pre-school and elementary-school teachers’ intercultural competence.


The findings indicate a misalignment between the objectives of intercultural education and the racial and ethnic representation of authors and their characters, especially protagonists. Furthermore, intercultural competence is not a major learning objective in the analyzed university syllabi. The choice of authors and picturebooks indicates a clear preference for white North American and European authors and white characters and protagonists. These findings highlight the need for teacher-educators, i.e., university instructors, to rethink the nature of their learning objectives and study content and to expand their reading lists with more diverse voices that challenge the traditional models that have historically left many ethnic groups misrepresented, under-represented, or fully omitted from school and university curricula.


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