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Children’s Book Week highlights importance of literature in troubled times

University Professor Georgina Barton gives top book picks for book week 2021

A University of Southern Queensland literacy academic says Children’s Book Week is the perfect opportunity for parents and teachers to use quality children’s books to explain complex issues – like the pandemic and the fall of Afghanistan.

Professor Georgina Barton from USQ’s School of Education co-edited and contributed to the book Compassion and Empathy in Education Contexts and explored how books can be used as powerful resources to teach children about their own emotions, tolerance of others, as well as understand the world around them.

“Our Australian curriculum has three strands and one of them is literature,” Professor Barton 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.”

Professor Barton said University of Southern Queensland Education students were being taught about the differences between illustrated texts and quality 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, whether that’s climate change or conflict or diverse families, 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,” she said.

“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:

About sharing and indifference: 
I’m Australian Too – Mem Fox, Ronojoy Ghosh
Room on our Rock – Temple, Temple and Baynton

About friendship and culture:
My Two Blankets – Kobald and Blackwood

About immigration and acceptance:
The Arrival – Shaun Tan

About First Nations culture:
Growing up Aboriginal in Australia - Anita Heiss                              
Respect - Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson, Lisa Kennedy

Children’s Book Week 2021 runs until August 27 with the theme ‘Old Worlds, New Worlds, Other Worlds’.

Professor Georgina Barton
Professor Georgina Barton has shared her top picks for Children’s Book Week 2021.