Developing Understandings of Social Justice: Critical Thinking in Action in a Literature Discussion Group

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Almost two decades ago, Gay (1995) described the state of multicultural education as both "exciting and troubling" (p. 4). This holds true today and has complex pedagogical and curricular implications. While dialogue within such a multidimensional field is essential, Gay noted that the complexity may serve to intimidate or overwhelm teachers who are "specialists in something other than multicultural education" (p. 7). As a teacher and a researcher, the author grapples with the complexity of multicultural education, especially as it relates to her work with children's literature in schools. Although she has been influenced by the theoretical writings of many scholars, a key inspiration remains McCarthy and Willis's (1995) critical emancipatory approach, which incorporates a systematic critique of Eurocentrism, global economics, the role of schooling in knowledge production and social reproduction, and the concept of race itself. Critical emancipatory multiculturalism involves the world beyond the classroom in making changes that enable teachers to teach transformatively, placing priority on the needs of the least advantaged. Taking a critical emancipatory approach to literature discussions, this study illustrates the power of multicultural literature with social justice themes to encourage reflection on worldviews.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-36
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Children’s Literature
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012


  • Social Justice
  • Cultural Pluralism
  • Childrens Literature
  • Critical Thinking
  • Discussion Groups
  • Multicultural Education
  • Criticism
  • Economics
  • School Role
  • Race
  • Student Needs
  • Disadvantaged
  • World Views
  • Teaching Methods


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