Multicultural Literacy: Patricia Polacco and Roald Dahl Report

August 17, 2021 by Essay Writer


One of the things that make man’s life intriguing is the diversity and variation exhibited by various people as a result of their differing cultures, personalities and physical appearance. Through the years, different groups of people have come up with cultures which help them develop spiritually, morally and mentally. As such these cultures have become building blocks in their lives and work places. The 21st Century has witnessed integration and increased cultural interaction among people on a previously unprecedented scale. The frequency of interaction is steadily on an increase mostly due to advances in transport and communication technologies (Gudykunst & Mody, 2002). The business realm is one of the venues where multicultural interactions have taken place.

Multicultural literacy

Tourish and Hargie (2004) propose that a wider and more encompassing workforce should be employed by any given organization. Furthermore, most people from different cultures are more accommodating once they perceive that the other parties are interested in their culture and its values. The argument proposed by Tourish and Hargie (2004) has further been supported by the advent of globalization. Due to globalization, there has been an increasing interest in multicultural studies by business leaders, communication and cultural experts. By definition, multicultural literacy refers to the ability of an individual to acknowledge, appreciate and understand the similar and different aspect of his/her own culture, customs, beliefs and values as well as those of others ((Gudykunst & Mody, 2002).

Many nations have come to appreciate the benefits of multiculturalism. This was not the case in the wake of the 20th century. In this era, multiculturalism was greatly discouraged, as each culture tried to establish its superiority over others. Miscommunication was rife and intercultural interactions were unheard off. However, throughout history, a number of iconic people have been instrumental in facilitating change as regarding to multicultural cohesion. This study shall highlight the life of two people in regards to their works, efforts, and achievements. How each person contributed to their cultural heritage shall also be discussed.

Biography of Patricia Polacco

Patricia Polacco is a well renowned author and illustrator of children books. As Miller (2001) reiterates, Polacco got her ideas and inspirations from her life experiences and childhood memories. Who is Patricia Polacco? According to Miller (2001), Patricia Polacco is a talented female author and illustrator whose works have influenced the lives of many children and young adults alike. Born in 1944, Polacco was raised in her grandparent’s farm which was located in Lansing, Michigan. Her family was of a Russian and Ukraine descent (mother’s side) and Irish descent from her father’s side. The farm that she lived in at Union City is described in her biography as a magical place where her artistic side was conceived (Hadaway & McKenna, 2007). As the authors explain, it was during her life in this farm that she heard amazing stories about her roots and the time line of her peoples.

Childhood and education

Considering her proven track record and achievements in her field, she should be hailed for being a lifelong achiever amidst her perfidious and challenging childhood. Hadaway & McKenna (2007) write that at the age of three years, Polacco’s parents divorced. Due to this state of affairs, she was forced to live with her mother and her grand parents in Union City until 1949 when her grand mother met her death. Miller (2001) state that Polacco had a hard time in school; she especially had troubles in reading and mathematics. Later, it was confirmed that she suffered from a reading disability called Dyslexia.

In her biography, Polacco affirms that she learned how to read at the age of fourteen. She further states that it was frustrating to see that all her friends could efficiently read and did well in class. At some point in time, she confesses that she thought that she was dumb. The revelation of her disability helped her cope with the situation and she learnt how to manage and capitalize on her weaknesses. She managed to complete her elementary, university and PhD education and excelled in all her educational endeavors.

Advent of career and inspirations

She attributes most of her works to the positive impacts that her grandparents had o her life. Evidence of this can be seen in her books such as Chicken Sunday, Babushka’s Doll, and Thunder Cake. In these books, the author highlights a relationship between a young person and the elderly in their societies. Her enriched multicultural knowledge came from her life in Ocean View Drive, Califonia where she interacted with neighbors from different racial, cultural and ethnical backgrounds Hadaway & McKenna (2007). Through these interactions, Polacco managed to learn about the diverse cultures. This knowledge is evident in some of her books where she vividly narrates some of the cultural norms that they followed and shared with the neighbors despite their differences.


The experiences in her life shaped her career significantly. She started writing at the age of 41. In 1988 Polacco got the Sydney Taylor Book Award for her book “The Keeping Quilt”. A year later, her book “Rechenka’s Eggs” earned her the International Reading Association Award. In 1990 (March 10th), the Santa Clara Reading Council acknowledged her efforts and put her name in the “Author’s Hall of Fame”. Two of her books earned her the recognition of excellence at the Commonwealth Club of California. In 1992, she got the Golden Kite Award for Illustration for Chicken Sunday.

In the same year, she was awarded by the Boston Area Educators for Social Responsibility from whom she got the “Children’s Literature and Social Responsibility Award”. Between 1993 and 1998, Polacco received 7 more awards (Parent’s Choice Honors (1991, 1997 and in 1998), North Dakota Library Association Children’s Book Award (1996), Jo Osborne Award (1996), Show Me Readers Award (1997), West Virginia Children’s Book Award (1997) and the Humpty Dumpty Award in 1998) (Hadaway & McKenna, 2007).


Her books are very rich in multicultural facts. They have influenced the lives of many young children and provide valuable guidelines on how a diverse community can compensate on their differences and live harmoniously. In addition, her books give detailed information about different cultures. From these books, children and adults alike are able to learn about their cultural heritage and achieve multicultural literacy.

Biography of Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl was a famous writer whose works evolved around children’s books and short stories. In addition, he wrote scripts for various movies which originated from his books or ideas. According to Sturrock (2010), Roald Dahl was born in 1916 Llandaff, South Wales. His parents were of a Norwegian descent.

Childhood and education

His childhood life was full of mischief and as Powling (2009) reiterates, Dahl was always up to no good. His father died when he was three years old. His mother took him to English schools as part of his late father’s wishes. The Llandaff Cathedral School was not an easy place to be. The principal (a clergy man) was strict and a firm believer in the cliché, “spare the rod, spoil the child”. To this effect, Dahl and some of his friends often found themselves on the wrong side of the stick and were regularly punished for their misdemeanors.

Powling (2009) asserts that the cruelty experienced by Dahl during his early school life from older students and the principal, greatly influenced his works as an adult. From some of his works, it is evident that he portrays authoritative figures as cruel individuals out to inflict harm to others. In addition, he brings out the fact that people are not always what they seem to be. He described his school years as “days of horror characterized by an array of rules that had to be followed. This did not fly well with him. To this effect, he later declined his mothers offer to join university and opted to work for a company that would provide him with an opportunity to work abroad (Sturrock, 2010). At this point, his greed for adventure was slowly creeping in.

Advent of career and inspirations

After graduating from high school (18yrs old), Dahl was employed by the shell oil company in London (1933-37) and later transferred to Tanzania (1937-39). It was in East Africa that Dahl got the adventurous life that he always dreamt of. He enjoyed the tropical climate, safaris and wildlife that characterized this region. In addition, he got a chance to interact with the locals and learnt how to speak Swahili. At the beginning of the Second World War, Dahl got a chance to serve his nation in the Royal Air Force which was located in Nairobi, Kenya.

As a pilot, he was responsible for shooting down enemy airplanes and he was shot down by the Libyans. After recovery, he was transferred to Washington DC where he served as a technical advisor to the government. This is where his writing career began. He started writing short stories which could be posted in the Saturday Evening Post. As his work got popular, the stories that he wrote could be found in other magazines. As Sturrock (2010) comments, the more Dahl wrote, the further his stories went from reality to fantasy.

In as much as his marriage to Patricia Neal (a movie star) never worked out, it bore him five children who became a valuable source of inspiration to his work. Powling (2009) states that Dalf could make up stories and tell them to his children every night before they went to sleep. He started writing in 1943 and his first published work was in 1961. His life experiences played a pivotal role in his works. However, adults often criticized his works saying that they portrayed the adults as cruel and devious people in the eyes of the children. Powling (2009) states that Dalf often defended his work by attesting to the fact that children liked his works not because it related to their life experiences but because they (the children) have a tendency to like cruelty and critic adults.

Contribution and awards

He later died on the 23rd day of November 1990 due to illness. However, his works have been influential to many people who would like to change the cultural belief that all adults are cruel and grotesque in the eyes of the children. He managed to win the Edgar Allen Poe award, the Mystery Writers of America award (both in 1954 and 1959). His book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” earned him the New England Round Table of Children’s Librarians Award in 1972, the Surrey School award in 1973. In addition, he has also bagged the Federation of Children’s Book Groups Award, Massachusetts Children’s Award, New York Times Outstanding Books Award and the Millennium Children’s Book Award among others (Sturrock, 2010).


Gudykunst, W. B. and Mody, B. (2002). Handbook of International and Intercultural Communication. CA: Sage.

Hadaway, N. L., & McKenna, M. J. (2007). Breaking boundaries with global literature: celebrating diversity in K-12 classrooms. USA: International Reading Assoc.

Miller, E. B. (2001). The Internet resource directory for K-12 teachers and librarians. USA: Libraries Unlimited.

Powling, C. (2009). Roald Dahl. USA: Evans Brothers.

Sturrock, D. (2010). Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl. USA: Simon & Schuster.

Tourish, D. and Hargie, O. (2004). Key Issues in Organizational Communication. NY: Routledge.

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