Essay: Using Children's Literature to Explore Social Issues

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¶ … Children's Literature to Explore Social Issues

Social Literature for Children

In many ways, the prudent application of children's literature in a classroom environment can be considered one of the most efficacious means of exploring the complexity of social issues within today's world. This statement holds particularly true for the educational processes within certain segments of Canada, which has become increasingly enveloped by a diverse, multicultural population that can be stratified into a number of socio-economic categories and ethnicities. Children's literature, then, can help developing learners adopt a stance of tolerance and acceptance that can conceivably aid tomorrow's generation in living in a world that is more equitable than the present one, since "the ultimate goal of social action is the creation of a fairer and more just society for all people regardless of race, culture, class, or gender" (Responding To Literature 419). The key to doing so within a Canadian setting is to identify what sort of social issues are most germane to residents of that part of the world, to select the proper literature that can augment the exploration and understanding of these social issues, and to discern the most didactic means for engaging children with literature that will ultimately shape their viewpoints and regards for today (and tomorrow's society).

Perhaps one of the reasons that children's literature can be so useful towards the excavation of social issues is due to the overarching importance of literacy within the cognitive thought processes and development of young people. This particular viewpoint cannot be emphasized enough, and is largely alluded to in the following quotation from Energizing Ontario Education, a treatise in which Ontario, Canada-based educators have outlined their current and future goals for their educational institutions.

"Literacy is defined as the ability to use language and images in rich and varied forms to read, write, listen, view, represent, and think critically about ideas. It involves the capacity to access, manage, and evaluate information; to think imaginatively and analytically; and to communicate thoughts and ideas effectively. Literacy includes critical thinking and reasoning to solve problems and make decisions related to issues of fairness, equity, and social justice. Literacy connects individuals and communities and is an essential tool for personal growth and active participation in a cohesive, democratic society (6).

The potential application as a medium for educating students about social issues and actually effecting social change through the proper usage of children's literature is fairly apparent in the preceding quotation. By combining a proclivity towards grammar, spelling, and the other mechanical components of language with the potential to shape thoughts regarding important social principles of "fairness" and "social justice," inducing literacy within children at an early age is a highly appropriate medium for getting newcomers to consider their surroundings and the reasons for why things are the way that they are.

Furthermore, a brief analysis of recent statistics regarding the demographics in certain portions of Canada reveal that there are a number of impending social issues which residents, and in particular young children are and will continue to deal with. The traditional population split between French Canadian and Roman Catholic English in Ontario alone has been replaced with immigrants from a variety of national backgrounds including those from Asia, Africa, and Latin America which "have outnumbered those from traditional European backgrounds (15). There are other significant stratifications in such important socio-economic realms as unemployment and poverty, which have created a social reality in contemporary Canadian society that is decidedly at variation with that which preceded it. The best way to prepare present and future generations for such diversity and differences from traditional Canadian culture, would be to address such social issues in the school systems in which such diverse groups of people inherently converge, as suggested by the following quotation from For The Love Of Learning.

"What began as an… [END OF PREVIEW]

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