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(Offered as AMST-328, EDST-328, and HIST-328 [US/TR/TS]) Children’s literature has a diversity problem. A 2018 study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that of more than 3000 children’s books published that year, roughly 50% featured main characters who were White. Only 10% featured Black characters, 7% featured Asian / Pacific Islander characters, and 5% featured Latinx characters. (27% of the books surveyed featured animal characters.) By far the least represented group in children’s literature were Native Americans, who appeared in fewer than 1% of the books surveyed.
This course explores the ethics and impact of inclusive representation in children’s media. It focuses on the challenge of teaching young people under-represented histories, particularly when those histories engage with raw, difficult, and often still painful subjects. How can we tell historically accurate stories to children without whitewashing or sugarcoating the past? Why is the drive to make children’s media more inclusive critically important?
A major component of this course involves experiential learning. Working together in small groups, and with guidance from experts in children’s publishing (editors, authors, illustrators, librarians), students will research, write, and publish a book for children on a topic related to Native American history. Readings will combine scholarship about children’s literature and publishing, the importance of historical representation and storytelling, and Native American history. Students will engage directly with the local community through focus groups, discussions with Native American knowledge keepers and cultural consultants, as well as visits to local libraries and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. This course is open to all and no prior experience is necessary, however students must be willing to work collaboratively, and will be required to attend one out-of-class field trip.
Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professors Boucher and Vigil.
How to handle overenrollment: Preference given to AMST/HIST/EDST majors and then to seniors, juniors.
Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: collaborative group work, readings and discussions, field trips, artistic work, independent research, visual analysis, oral presentations, and writing/storytelling.