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Research News

May 23, 2002

Landmark periodical devoted to tot and teen texts

Literature for little ones:Grown-up ideas presented in Canadian kid's stories should earn the tales more respect than they get, U of G-published periodical says.
Photo: Olivia Brown

The storybooks and children's tales that Prof. Daniel Chouinard reads and teaches to his students may seem juvenile in content and presentation, but he and his colleagues take children's literature's messages and impact very seriously. Nonetheless, after the printing of the 100th issue of the world-renowned U of G-published periodical Canadian Children's Literature (CCL), they're still fighting for the respect they believe the study of children's stories deserves.

"Children's literature is a powerful educational tool, and its research is more multi-faceted than research in other literatures," says Chouinard. "Children's literature elicits more reactions because parents and parent-teacher associations make the decisions to buy the books that are read by children, their grandparents and caregivers. To research children's literature we need to utilize sociology, psychology, education, and history as well as many more disciplines."

CCL's editors dedicate each issue to a chosen theme. Chouinard says researchers write full-length research articles that put classic and contemporary children's tales and their authors into context that relate to contemporary issues and debates - just like adult literature research. Articles will relate certain tales or genres to popular culture, or varying perspectives such as feminism, post-colonialism, or post-modernism.

Special issues in the past have argued children's literature's relationship to censorship, and even the Holocaust. Many people mistakenly believe children's literature is exempted from such heavy issues, Chouinard says.

"Children's authors often take on the difficult task of representing history," he says. "But in a way that is suitable or palatable for children."

The periodical was born in 1975 with the University of Guelph's acquisition of Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery documents, and a mandate to make Canadian children's literature known around the world.

Now, while the publication focuses mainly on literature within Canada, it boasts subscribers and contributors in countries all over the world, including Holland, France, Poland, and Bulgaria.

"Originally we were printing stories about almost anything that was being published in the field," Chouinard says. "Now the quality and quantity of English-language and French-language Canadian children's literature is extraordinary - there is a vast selection, and as stories are increasingly marketed by multi-national corporations, it's even more interesting to research them in a social and political context."

Universities across the country offer courses in the study of children's literature, but CCL is the only university-level periodical that is dedicated to taking children's literature seriously with a societal, academic, and research interest. CCL is a fully bilingual publication, averaging about 100-120 pages per quarterly issue.

Funding for the periodical has been provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

by Lisa Caines - Guelph, May 15, 2002

Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge -SPARK- is a student-based research communication initiative. It has been offering first-hand experience to students interested in journalism and research writing at the University of Guelph since 1988. Guelph's SPARK model has been adopted by 18 other universities across Canada, through the help of Canada's largest scientific-granting agency, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

As one of its many activities, SPARK contributes a bylined, weekly column, "SPARKplugs," to the Guelph daily paper, the Guelph Mercury, which then distributes it nationally over the Canadian Press wire service.

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