, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 40-51
Date: 05 Jan 2010

Once Upon Today: Teaching for Social Justice with Postmodern Picturebooks

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Children’s literature has long been used by parents and teachers to impart social values and expectations as well as to entertain children. Postmodern picturebooks jar this tradition by stimulating readers to question and rethink societal norms. However, these books also feature many cultural attributes that hold fast: loving families are still a safe harbor after adventures, while hard work and perseverance remain keys to success. Thus postmodern picturebooks provide a safe realm for exploration of values and traditional mores. This article examines the use of postmodern picturebooks in classroom settings to spark discussions that can lead to greater awareness of the world and the possibilities of students’ roles in it. The article also suggests activities to encourage children to reflect on new ways of being and thinking on a level appropriate to their sensibilities.

Kathleen O’Neil is a former kindergarten teacher and before that, graphic designer and illustrator. Currently she is an Assistant Professor of Education with a focus on elementary literacy. Always curious about how people perceive information, whether from words or images, in the form of an advertisement, website, or picturebook, Dr. O’Neil is interested in semiotics and the study of popular culture.