Children’s literature provides elementary teachers and students the opportunity to critically engage in the world around them. However, too often teachers choose not to engage students in discussions of complex social issues out of a sense of fear or discomfort. In this paper, we explore the reflections of 11 teachers who chose to engage their students in discussions of three complex social issues: immigration, migration, and forced relocation. Specifically, we highlight the successes, challenges, and surprises teachers reported after completing a three-week long unit that integrated discussions of complex social issues with computer science and science. Findings suggest that despite teacher reservations, students are interested in talking about complex social issues and through engagement with children’s literature are able to engage in thoughtful, personal, and critical conversation about these issues. Further, through discussing critical social issues, teachers and students were able to build the culturally responsive social-emotional skills essential for effective participation in a diverse democratic society.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)