Developing Students’ Intercultural Competence through Children’s and Adolescent Literature
Languages of publication
Various professional associations have commented on the essential role of intercultural competence within the foreign language curriculum (i.e. MLA, 2007; ACTFL, 1996; 2014). This article takes up the call of these organizations by exploring elementary-level university Spanish students’ perceptions of the development of their intercultural understanding while reading children’s and adolescent literature in Spanish. As part of a second-semester Spanish course in a large land-grant university in the American Southwest, seventy-six students read two children’s and adolescent novels in Spanish as part of the course curriculum and documented their developing understandings of Latino culture through journal entries, surveys and compositions. Analysis of students’ responses indicates that the children’s novels played an essential role in their emerging understandings of various aspects of Latino culture. While reading Me llamo María Isabel, numerous students noted the developmental nature of the main character’s trajectory as she strove to forge ties with her Puerto Rican ancestry while also negotiating her cultural identity in the United States and were able to appreciate the struggles immigrants experience as they learn the cultural traditions of the new homeland. Reading Béisbol en abril y otros cuentos helped students perceive similarities between Latino culture and their own mainstream American culture by comparing and contrasting aspects of Latino culture with their own.
Publication order reference