School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
Metusela, Lorelle, Ethnic diversity in picture books through the eyes of librarians and parents, BSc Hons, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, 2014.
This thesis examines the factors and priorities that are taken into account when parents and librarians select picture books for preschool aged children. In particular, it examines whether the ethnicity of characters and children are considered in the selection process. In doing so, it also considers how picture books are valued as part of the material culture of library and home spaces. Data were collected through semi- structured interviews with parents and librarians, along with home and library tours during which photographs of picture book collections were taken. The results chapters demonstrate that parents and librarians valued quality picture books with good stories, pictures and format. Most parents and librarians agreed that ethnic diversity should be portrayed in picture books, however, they did not prioritise ethnic diversity when selecting picture books for children. Parents all placed high importance on reading picture books to their children. Their own values and nostalgic childhood memories are reflected in the picture book selection process and also in the manner in which picture books are displayed and stored as part of the material culture of family homes. Picture books play an important socialising role in the lives of young children, teaching them about themselves and the world. This thesis extends theories of everyday multiculturalism by positioning picture books as potential ‘sites’ for children’s multicultural encounters. This argument is informed by evidence of children’s pretend play. The thesis concludes that picture books and their characters, have a more-than-representational significance in young children’s lives. This underscores the importance of ensuring realistic portrayals of ethnically diverse characters and communities in picture books.