For Us by Us: Children’s Picture Books to Promote Solidarity and Acceptance in the Age of Refugees
This project (2017-2019) will involve refugee communities in several sites (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Montreal, Quebec, and Coventry, England) with a focus on children between the ages of 8 and 18 (n = 10-20 at each site) and adult collaborators (n = 5 at each site), in the creation of picture books, “for children by children.” Each site may carry out the project in slightly different ways, depending on context, but the idea is that children, either in small groups or individually, will create a picture book. While important scholarly initiatives have already examined the benefits of reading picture books to the development of language skills, empathy, and critical thinking, our proposed project will be the first of its kind to examine the role that the creation of these artistic and literacy materials by refugee children themselves plays in the culture of tolerance and acceptance. There is growing recognition that children are capable social agents who have the capacity to make valuable contributions to deepening an understanding issues of concern in their lives. However, there is a paucity of research examining the experiences and creative capacities of refugee children, information which is urgently needed for understanding their social integration and supporting their mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Adjusting to a new home can be very difficult for refugees, and in the current socio-cultural and political environments, refugees can be targets for violence, racism, scapegoating, and other less overt forms of discrimination. Forcibly displaced peoples are also at risk for losing important connections to their cultural, linguistic, and artistic heritage. We will work directly with community organizations that support a diverse patronage including refugee children and their families. This study aims to support the making of picture books by refugee children that capture and preserve their perspectives and knowledge.
Team: April Mandrona, Michaelina Jakala, Ej Milne, Claudia Mitchell, Maria Ezcurra
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
[read “Immigrant picture book project gets federal funding,” John McPhee, The Chronicle Herald, November 15, 2017]