Environmental Landscapes in Children’s Literature
Globalization makes living in a natural environment complex. At present, children are living as social cyborgs in places connected by technology that are more in common with other places rather than their own natural landscapes. The local place becomes a distant place. Consequently, lack of care for natural places often leads to a degraded habitat, loss of wilderness, alienation, and lack of connectedness. However, when children read place-specific texts and images from storybooks that locate characters in panoramic or close up shots of landscapes they become more environmentally connected in mind or in memory to hiking along mountain trails, camping in the forest, and canoeing or fishing on a lake. These images of landscapes are not just any place; these are specifically Canadian places. Embedded in the images are messages that promote social and ecological caring. In work with urban children’s participatory reading adventures, the researchers highlight how place-specific storybooks become a springboard for classroom dialogue as children identify with the images envisioned through art, photo-voice or poetry and the interests behind their creation. Envisioning images positions children aesthetically and efferently (aligning their ideas, attitudes, and experiences) to be socially aware, reflective, and transformational. Although images create a place that the children know but have never been, place becomes clearer through their eidetic memory and the vibrancy of the details. As children read, they build an awareness of the natural environments in contrast to the built environments of the malls or the video game playgrounds. Thus, learning from the local provides children with the opportunity to create long-term identity with and respect for places where they live. These engagements with place-specific images and text bridge the interconnections between story and care for the ecology.
Keywords: Place-Based Illustrations for Story, Care for Ecology, Visual Literacy
Dr. Linda Wason-Ellam
Professor, Curriculum Studies, University of Saskatchewan
Dr. Peter Purdue
Professor, Art and Art History, University of Saskatchewan