Typically, themes have focused on literature in the traditional sense, with a heavy emphasis on stories. A “real-world” literacy perspective calls for broader themes that are built around a combination of high-quality literature, nonfiction, and such authentic resources as posters, letters, maps, brochures, charts, and computer programs. J. David Cooper lists four criteria to keep in mind when choosing literature.
While this is somewhat subjective, literature should be able to stand the test of value if it represents good writing, is predicated on an idea worth writing about, holds students’ interest, has excellent illustrations, and/or is told in book language that shapes the story and carries the reader through to the end.
Cultural and Social Authenticity
Literature that is socially and culturally authentic assures that students develop an appreciation for and an understanding of persons from a variety of cultures and social settings.
Authentic resources draw readers in by appealing to their interests, background, needs, and abilities. Listen as your students discuss what appeals to them, what they read on their own, and how they use real-world resources in and outside of the classroom.
To meet the diverse needs of your students, consider the complexity of the texts, the interests, cultural norms, and experiences of your class. Beginning readers need predictable, repetitive texts to capture their imaginations and provide the richness and rhythm of language. Older readers often like contemporary themes and sometimes exhibit a preference for a favorite author or genre.
Selecting Multicultural and Real-World Resources
What questions should I be asking when selecting multicultural literature and real-world resources for my themes?
- Have I included a balance of high-quality, unadapted fiction and nonfiction?
- Have I included a range of literature and resources at a variety of reading levels? Are they appropriate and appealing to my students?
- Will the literature motivate my students to engage in further reading and writing?
- Are the literature texts and resources multicultural? Are they written by authors of diverse backgrounds? Do they represent a variety of perspectives?
- Do the multicultural works accurately reflect a broad range of cultural, linguistic, and historical perspectives?
- What types of technology will help us maximize the theme?
Newspapers and magazines
Ask for parents’ help in gathering resources for learning. Cultural artifacts, books, songs, recipes, schedules, brochures, advertisements, playbills, menus, career and professional information can enrich theme resources and help establish an important partnership between home and school. Students benefit from the hands-on aspect of real-world resources, too.