Choosing Children's Books: Cultural Relevance Rubric

Just what makes a book culturally relevant? Teachers and students can use the Cultural Relevance Rubric created by David and Yvonne Freeman to examine and discuss a book's cultural relevance in the classroom in which it is being used. The rubric was originally published in English Language Learners: The Essential Guide (Scholastic, 2007).

Online resource

Another version of the rubric is available from ReadWriteThink.

Teachers we have worked with have used this rubric in various ways. Some have read a book that they thought might be culturally relevant to a single ELL and then asked the questions on the rubric. They have been excited about how the children connect to the events and can extend the reading by comparing characters and events to their own families and experiences.

Other teachers have had older students read a book they believed fit the questions on the rubric and then had students individually fill out the rubric. Still others have used the rubric as a basis for class discussion of a text they read aloud to the class or that the class read for a literature study. We have provided examples of books that fit each question from the rubric in Culturally Relevant Books in the ELL Classroom.

Cultural Relevance Rubric

1) Are the characters in the story like you and your family?

Just like us
  
Not at all
4
3
2
1

2) Have you ever had an experience like one described in this story?

Yes
  
No
4
3
2
1

3) Have you lived in or visited places like those in the story?

Yes
  
No
4
3
2
1

4) Could this story take place this year?

Yes
  
No
4
3
2
1

5) How close do you think the main characters are to you in age?

Very close
  
Not close at all
4
3
2
1

6) Are there main characters in the story who are: boys (for boys) or girls (for girls)?

Yes
  
No
4
3
2
1

7) Do the characters talk like you and your family do?

Yes
  
No
4
3
2
1

8) How often do you read stories like these?

Often
  
Never
4
3
2
1

David and Yvonne Freeman are professors at the University of Texas at Brownsville. David is a professor of reading and ESL, and Yvonne is a professor of bilingual education. The Freemans have coauthored a number of books, including Teaching Reading and Writing in Spanish and English, Dual Language Essentials, Closing the Achievement Gap, Essential Linguistics, and Between Worlds.

Freeman, D. and Freeman, Y. English Language Learners: The Essential Guide. "Culturally Relevant Books," pgs. 106-115. New York: Scholastic, In. 2007. Reprinted with permission from Scholastic, Inc.

Reprints

For any reprint requests, please contact the author or publisher listed.

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Comments

Thank you for this article and rubric. In coordination with other organizations we are developing children's books for Sierra Leone, and this is a useful rubric to use in our writing workshops.

Nice job!

These questions are wonderful for developing connections with a story and therefore getting students engaged in a story. Thank you!

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