Children’s Book Week held in late August, was a good opportunity for parents and teachers to use children’s books to explain complex issues to children, said Professor Georgina Barton from University of Southern Queensland’s School of Education.

Barton co-edited and contributed to the book Compassion and Empathy in Education Contexts. In it she explored how books can be powerful resources to teach children about their own emotions, tolerance of others, and to understand the world around them. “Our Australian curriculum has three strands and one of them is literature,” she said.

“When there’s so much upheaval in the world, and children are either directly or indirectly affected, children’s books can help parents and teachers start those more delicate conversations when needed. It’s often difficult to explain in an appropriate way and at the same time ease their concerns about what’s going on around them, or on the evening news, but the right piece of quality literature can help young people grapple with those big ideas and start to build their own resilience and empathy.”

Barton said USQ is teaching its Education students about children’s literature to help them take key concepts into the classroom as teachers. “At its core, children’s literature is produced to have young people think about new ideas and big issues, […] and professional authors and illustrators offer wonderful story lines and images to help us step into those topics so kids can process them more easily. Encouraging empathetic thinking and strong sense of self is one of the most powerful things we can do for our young people, and quality kids’ literature does just that.”

Professor Georgina Barton’s Top Picks for Children’s Book Week 2021 for encouraging empathy, understanding and respect, were:

I’m Australian Too – Mem Fox, Ronojoy Ghosh
Room on our Rock – Temple, Temple and Baynton
My Two Blankets – Kobald and Blackwood
The Arrival – Shaun Tan
Growing up Aboriginal in Australia – Anita Heiss
Respect – Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson, Lisa Kennedy

Children’s Book Week 2021 was themed Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds.

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