Culturally Authentic Texts

Not every book or piece of text featuring characters of color is culturally responsive.
— Sharroky Hollie

Two factors make finding culturally authentic books a challenge. 1) There is a lack of culturally diverse books published, as reported by the Cooperative Children's Book Center, and illustrated in the infographic below. 2) Since every book that features diverse characters is not culturally authentic, educators must be able to read and determine the difference between the three types of texts below.  

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Culturally Authentic

The first and preferred text for the responsive educator is culturally specific/authentic. Culturally authentic texts illuminate the experiences of a  group culturally and not racially.  The language, experiences,  situations, themes, characters and  illustrations (if applicable) depict the culture accurately and authentically. 

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Culturally Generic

Culturally generic texts feature characters of various racial identities, but contain few and/or superficial (maybe even stereotypical) details to define them culturally.  The characters, plots and themes are generically common to American culture and don't provide  much depth or detail revealing cultural diversity. 

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Culturally  Neutral

Culturally neutral texts are the least responsive. These texts feature themes, characters and situations that are completely mainstream, but might have illustrations of racially diverse characters, or diversity indicated in description, but in no other way indicate cultural diversity. Neutral texts can also be common stories/texts with the characters "painted" brown. For example,  a Latina Wonder Woman.

How Do I Know What Type It Is?  Use Responsive Dots

Determining if a text is culturally authentic is largely subjective.  Two or more people from the same cultural group can read the same text and have different opinions about it's authenticity. That is okay however, because the conversation with colleagues and students about representation is important. (Hollie, 2017).  

Responsive Dots is a tool to help educators analyze the cultural authenticity of texts.  Sometimes there won't be a consensus on what type of text a book is, but the reflection and conversations are more important that knowing definitively if a book is generic or authentic.  Use Responsive Dots, along with the reviews here, and/or on other blogs/sites.