Children’s Literature in Contexts of Precarity

Stories create safe spaces. For children and young people living in contexts of precarity caused by armed conflict, natural disasters, forced displacement or entrenched poverty, stories bring comfort, help to weave the present back together and open a window into the future.

Through stories, picturebooks and arts-based practices, we started building a network – a network to support communities in contexts of displacement, to link and strengthen connections between communities and practitioners, and to establish new connections with people who share our values and want to engage in similar activities. The aim of our network has been to build on our expertise in a range of areas, such as children’s literature and media, education, reading mediation, in order to better negotiate the challenges that many communities are currently addressing with few and precarious resources. This network has now expanded and we want to include and share these experiences via this website, so that we can learn from each other’s practices.  

We begin with the simple gesture of placing a picturebook into children’s hands in communities that have experienced vulnerability in its many forms. Together with these communities, we explore the power of picturebooks and storytelling and start gathering around us formal and informal stakeholders who want to carry this work forward: in classrooms, libraries, community centers, gardens, markets, and even the streets. 

In 2017, we started by working with partners in Egypt and Mexico, including researchers, NGOs, governmental agencies, and volunteer initiatives in both countries. We exchanged knowledge on current issues affecting the cognitive and emotional welfare of displaced children. We scoped unique creative practices and identified successful strategies of using children’s literature and arts-based activities, gathering resources, examples of activities, and stories from the contexts in both countries. We provided training and developed materials, as well as arts-based methods, to document the impact of using children’s literature with displaced children. The project was generously supported by AHRC-GCRF and SCF-GCRF which made possible the original development and delivery of workshops, field visits and networking events. 

Now, by expanding this work to other contexts, we hope to facilitate a virtual safe space where we share creative ideas on how to best support our communities. We invite you to contribute stories from your own context so we can learn from everyone’s experiences.