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“The University for the Poor”: Portrayals of Class in Translated Children’s Literature

by Danielle E. E. Forest, Kasey L. Garrison Garrison & Sue C. C. Kimmel - 2015

Background: Scholars of children’s literature have been investigating portrayals of females and racial groups for several decades, yet few have examined depictions of social class. Research on social class depictions in children’s literature is needed in order to identify books that affirm children’s class identities and offer portrayals of socioeconomic diversity.

Focus of the Study: This study investigates portrayals of social class in 35 titles receiving the Batchelder Award or Honor between 2001 and 2013. The Batchelder Award recognizes outstanding translated books with international origins. International books for children were selected in this study because American titles are thought to be middle class in orientation; the researchers hypothesized that the international books might provide a more complex analysis of social class.

Research Design: The inductive approach to qualitative content analysis was utilized. At least two researchers read and coded each book in the sample. The researchers examined passages referencing social class as well as other cultural constructs such as race/ethnicity, gender, religion, and nationality.

Findings: The researchers identified several markers that served as indicators of social class status: living conditions, food, safety and protection, healthcare, leisure, education, occupation, residence, speech and mannerisms, clothing/dress, death rituals, and material possessions. Social class was often associated with other identities such as a character’s religion or ethnicity. Characters from typically marginalized class groups, such as the poor and the working class, were portrayed sensitively and with dignity.

Conclusions: The markers of class identified in this study may serve as a framework for other researchers interested in examining class in children’s literature or media. The findings may help teachers and teacher educators identify and select books that realistically and respectfully portray members of different social classes.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 117 Number 2, 2015, p. 1-40
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17781, Date Accessed: 9/25/2021 7:56:36 AM

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About the Author
  • Danielle E. Forest
    The University of Southern Mississippi
    E-mail Author
    DANIELLE FOREST is an Assistant Professor of Elementary Education and Literacy at The University of Southern Mississippi. Her research interests include critical literacy, children’s literature, and social class. She has presented at the American Educational Research Association annual meeting and published in the Journal of Language and Literacy Education and Curriculum Inquiry.
  • Kasey Garrison
    Charles Sturt University
    E-mail Author
    KASEY GARRISON is a Lecturer in the Teacher Librarianship program at Charles Sturt University in New South Wales, Australia. Her research interests include school libraries, children’s literature, and cultural diversity. She has given presentations for the American Educational Research Association and the American Association of School Librarians, and has a forthcoming article in Bookbird
  • Sue C. Kimmel
    Old Dominion University
    E-mail Author
    SUE KIMMEL is an Assistant Professor of School Libraries in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. Her research interests include technology, collaboration between school librarians and teachers, and children’s literature. Her work has been published in School Libraries Worldwide and Library Media Connection, and she has a forthcoming article in Bookbird.
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