The effects of multicultural literature on elementary students' social distance attitudes toward selected racial groups
This study was designed to determine the effects of instruction using multicultural literature on elementary students' social distance scores toward selected, racial groups: African American, Asian, European American, Hispanic, and Native American. These five racial groups served as the dependent variables in this study. Specifically, the research question addressed by this study was: Will Social Distance scores toward selected racial groups of second and sixth graders who are exposed to multicultural literature differ from second and sixth graders who are not exposed to selected multicultural literature? The participants included two, second- and sixth-grade classes (a treatment and a comparison group for each of the grade levels) attending an elementary school located in southern Louisiana, during the 2000-2001 school year. For a ten-week period, the researcher and the classroom teachers alternately taught to the treatment groups multicultural literature lessons followed by discussion, questioning, and hands-on activities related to customs, culture and language of each racial group. Students in the comparison groups did not receive multicultural literature lessons but did receive literature lessons focusing on a variety of themes followed by discussion, questioning, and hands-on activities related to the themes. For both treatment and comparison groups, the literature selections and corresponding lesson plans were randomly selected for order of presentation. Upon completion of the ten-week treatment period, students' social distance scores were measured by the Social Distance Attitude Survey (SDAS). A 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 (group x grade level x gender x race) analysis of variance (ANOVA) statistical procedure was used to obtain scores of social distance toward each of the five racial groups (African American, Asian, European American, Hispanic, and Native American) addressed by the SDAS. The Social Distance scores of treatment and comparison groups were compared for each of the five racial groups, using the independent variables of group (treatment and comparison) grade level (second and sixth grade), race (White and non-White), and gender (male and female). Statistically significant treatment effects were found for all five racial groups and a statistically significant race effect was found for two of the five racial groups ( p < .005). A statistically significant group by grade by gender by race interaction effect was found for the European American racial group, but since this occurred for only one racial group and due to the complexity of such a high order interaction, this finding was not interpretable. There were no statistically significant grade or gender effects. The results from this study indicated that exposure to multicultural literature along with interactive experiences with classmates did significantly affect social distance scores toward the five racial groups.