Empathy and cultural understanding of groups that are marginalized due to religious, ethnic or sexual background is essential for peace in schools, neighborhoods, and society at large. Literacy classrooms can be a safe environment in which students can develop their own understandings and empathies. Although worthwhile, much of the research lacks details of student reactions to the people and cultures read about in historical narratives, as well as a focus on pedagogical practices that could give students a deep understanding of the culture. This study analyzed the empathetic responses of 13 sixth grade students to themes presented in a Mexican American narrative text, The Circuit. The purpose of this study was to understand the nature of student empathy and how empathetic responses reflect a rich historical and visual context. Key data sources of this interpretive study included large group discussions, small group discussions, written journal responses, and interviews. The results of this study indicated that students' empathetic responses are varied and complex and seem to reflect familiarity with topics in the text and personal background. Minimizing the cognitive demand of cultural content seemed to be a key pedagogical factor in helping students reach deeper levels of empathy. Suggestions are given for educators looking to teach empathy through cultural texts. Possible areas of research are recommended.
College and Department
Humanities; Spanish and Portuguese
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Rivera, Yvette, "Analyzing Young Readers' Empathetic Responses to a Mexican American Historical Narrative" (2017). All Theses and Dissertations. 6637.
authentic text, The Circuit, cultural understanding, empathy, Francisco Jiménez, historical narrative, interpretive study, interview, journal reflection, literature circles, migrant farm workers, multicultural literacy, qualitative study, visual literacy