Encouraging Empathy through Picture Books about Migration
Dissanayake Mudiyanselage, Kumarasinghe (2014) Encouraging Empathy through Picture Books about Migration. In Mallan, Kerry (Ed.) Picture Books and Beyond. Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA), Newtown, N.S.W., pp. 75-91.
Australia has become one of the most highly multilingual and multicultural societies in the world today with people descending from 270 ancestries, who speak more than 260 languages (Commonwealth of Australia, 2011). Immigration is something that children encounter in their daily lives either through personal experience or through witnessing the lives of migrants at school, in the community, or through popular media, including children’s literature. Schools are frequently the initial interface for individuals who resettle in Australia and they ‘play a significant role in establishing meaningful connections to Australian society and a sense of belonging in Australia’ (Uptin, Wright, & Harwood, 2013, p. 1). Children's literature about cultural and ethnic diversity explores the impacts of migration and related issues creating ‘imaginary realms’ (Dudek & Ommundsen, 2007). These fictional interpretations of the migrant experience or the experience of migration are supported by distinctive “real life” cultural experiences. Picture books furnish teachers and students with an accessible means to investigate these complex issues through sensitive discussions. This chapter investigates how picture books about migration help deepen children’s perceptive understanding of migrants’ plights, and thereby nurture tolerance and empathy.
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