|dc.description.abstract||Childhood is socially constructed and holds profound meaning for contemporary society.
Although children are increasingly seen as social agents, the dominant view is that
children are unable to make substantial contributions to society due to their immaturity
and minority status. Childhood theorists have countered this by emphasising the
importance of seeking children’s views, an approach which underpins this study.
Children’s books provide ideological sources for constructing and understanding
childhood. They have a cultural role in representing childhood to children and adults and
are widely perceived to be a resource for children’s education and socialisation. In
addition, children’s books are written, produced and their use is mediated by adults. This
study aims to find out if books provide a space for children in a predominantly adult
constructed world by exploring what young people think about the ways in which
childhood is represented in children’s books.
The research was undertaken with young people aged 10 to 14 years, concentrating on
the lower and higher end of the age group, and took place in schools. Quantitative and
qualitative methods were used with 158 young people taking part in a questionnaire
survey and 43 participating in interviews. The study found that young people were
active co-constructors, rather than passive recipients, of representations of childhood in
children’s books. Young people demonstrated that they were skilled text handlers who
acknowledged the influence of other media on their engagement with books although
there were marked differences in their reading interests depending on age and gender.
Young people were interested in fiction which portrayed assertive and competent
depictions of childhood which they could relate to their own experience as well as
enjoying reading about young characters with powers and skills which were
extraordinary. Young people did not view childhood or the depiction of childhood
negatively, accepting it as a state of being rather than one of becoming, hence
contributing to their own understandings of childhood.||en