A study of South Carolina teachers' knowledge and application of selected children's literature on American Indian culture

Laura Stuart Becton
Dept. of Instruction and Teacher Education, University of South Carolina
August, 2013


This study examined teachers' knowledge and application of selected children's literature on American Indian culture. Elementary school teachers responded to a questionnaire. The questionnaire was a replication of one used by Thompson and Meeks in 1990; however, this questionnaire focused exclusively on children's book titles on American Indian culture. Teachers evaluated each of the 148 book titles regarding their knowledge and use of it in their classrooms based on six categories of responses. The selection of children's literature concentrated on picture books and represented multiple literary genres. Descriptive statistics were employed.

Analysis of the teacher questionnaire revealed at least 50 percent of the population surveyed knew and used seven titles from the selection. More known titles were of the traditional literary genre. It was found that teachers did recognize and utilize literary award winners in their classrooms. The study revealed that teachers used children's literature on American Indian culture as read-alouds in their classrooms during whole group instruction.

Teacher interviews were also carried out with twenty-five teachers to explore the methods teachers employ with children's literature on American Indian culture and reasons surrounding their use in the classroom. Teachers planned and implemented various student learning activities stemming from the children's literature which went beyond reading aloud for enjoyment. Teachers preferred to use traditional and informational genres as representative of American Indian culture in their classrooms. The reasons teachers used the literature in their classroom were in adherence to the State Academic Standards and in celebration of Thanksgiving.

The dependence on traditional literature in the classroom will continue the cycle of teaching students that American Indians are mythical people and non-existent in today's world. In order to transform present teacher knowledge and use of children's literature on American Indian culture, teachers need to reflect on their practices and take the initiative to learn more about the literature on the market which depicts American Indian in authentic and accurate ways.