Many excellent books on Japan have been published during the past decade. In fact, there are so many interesting and useful resources available that teachers or librarians acquiring items for schools with limited budgets might well wonder where to begin. This article offers some guidance for those educators who want to acquire new materials on Japan for elementary and middle school students.
By profession, elementary and middle school educators are cultural generalists—faced with the daunting task of selecting materials for a multitude of world cultures about which they may have little specialized knowledge. Their charge is to find material of high visual and literary quality that is also historically and culturally accurate, for though there are many good books on the market, there are also others with clichéd, misleading or incorrect information. It is virtually impossible for one person to have the expertise to pass judgment on the flood of materials coming to their attention at book fairs, through catalogues and over the Internet.
What can teachers do to ensure that they are not using outdated or flawed information about Japan? If they are not Japan experts, how can they judge whether a book and its illustrations are realistic or accurate? Here are some practical guidelines for approaching the process of selecting good materials without having a total command of Japan’s history and culture.