This study investigates the response of a class of 35 seven and eight year old\ud children to ten picture books with difficult, traumatic subject matter. Two of\ud the stories deal with areas of emotional loss, including the death of a\ud grandfather; five stories take the area of the Holocaust as their central theme,\ud and three are stories of earthquakes, with the consequent loss of life and\ud destruction. My research findings contribute to the study of children’s\ud literature in education by uniquely analysing and giving insight into especially\ud young children’s responses to this particular genre of children’s literature. In\ud this research programme, the children are invited to engage in reading and\ud four designed activities emerged for response: the central importance of\ud spoken language, the place of writing to capture meaning and significance,\ud the value of drawing to enhance understanding and the place of imaginative\ud role play as children worked on their impressions of events in the stories.\ud My central research questions are: What is young children’s understanding of\ud and response to texts and pictures in selected children’s picture books of\ud trauma? In what ways might young children’s responses to these issues and\ud their accompanying activities reshape their critical thinking? What have I, as\ud the researcher, learnt about my role as a teacher through teaching traumatic\ud issues?\ud The study was conducted in Taiwan using participatory action research\ud methods. My evidence shows that these children are capable of understanding\ud complex and disturbing situations that underpin the picture book narratives.\ud They used their social, interactive, verbal, emotional and imaginative skills to\ud respond to the texts in powerful ways. The significance of the teacher’s role as\ud a listener, questioner and learner was crucial in helping to motive and engage\ud the children. The study’s findings are that picture books that deal with\ud disturbing human issues can be introduced as part of a planned programme of Arts and Life education in Grades 1 to 6 of the primary school curriculum and\ud that children as young as seven are capable of responding to them with\ud maturity and sophistication
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