The pedagogical and aesthetic aspects of children’s and young adult literature have often been pitted against each other. Yet, if we think of children’s literature as a participatory and mediated practice, the aesthetic and the pedagogical dimensions are no longer opposed to each other.
In the last two decades, we have witnessed an “educational turn” in contemporary arts practices, where the emphasis is no longer on the finished object, but on the processes and relationships established with the audiences and communities which become part of the art project, a process also facilitated by digital fora. Speaking of children’s literature as a participatory and mediated social practice questions the limits of “non-art;” it brings the “death of the author” not only to praise the “birth of the reader,” but also to foreground and question the conventions that sustain the artistic.
Since we do not take children’s literacy skills for granted, books tend to be recommended according to specific age ranges, while teachers and other adult figures involved (such as librarians, parents, and other caretakers, the so-called “gate-keepers”) try to facilitate an interpretation of the author’s intention.
However, what ways of engaging with literacy do we allow to exist beyond reader-response approaches to reading and reading mediation? Will we still talk about the importance of understanding the text? What if we make children mediators and authors of children’s literature? Who is the ideal child that writes and reads? Who is the ideal adult that would read a child’s text? How is age produced and sustained in these relationships?
Thinking about possible synergies and entanglements between the pedagogical and the aesthetic in children’s literature raises questions about reception and affective engagement. That is, the flow of emotions and affects between texts, readers and other materialities. It also provides us with insights into the multiple relations of children’s literature with the publishing industry, readers / viewers / consumers / users, authors / artists, the practices of reading / sharing / discussing / re-versioning, and new technologies. Acknowledging these multiple relations prompts also reflections on our own (biased) academic work in the field.
Childhood studies has argued for the importance of considering children not as “adults in the making,” but rather as makers in their own right.
In this issue, we aim to advance the implications this approach has for the ever-growing field of children’s literature studies, highlighting the interconnections with literacy, education and media studies. We invite contributions exploring the methodological possibilities of combining and rethinking the hermeneutical methods of the humanities, the experimental and empirical approaches of social sciences and arts-based research, as well as the contemporary anthropological and educational research that question the essentialized positions of the adult and the child in relation to children’s literature and media.
In this vein, we suggest the following topics, but we also invite other articles inspired by the congress theme:
- Creative and collaborative writing by youth and children
- Intergenerational collaborations in children’s culture
- The child as :prosumer” of children’s media
- Reading and writing as play
- Children re-versioning stories
- Booktubers, fanfiction, and web-based communities
- Child-led participatory research
- New materialism approaches to encounters with children´s books and media
- Decolonial epistemologies in children’s literature
- New approaches to reader-response
- Arts-based research
- Historical approaches to tensions between the pedagogic and the aesthetic
- Ethical-political role of authors in children’s and YA literature
- Representations of children as authors and artists in children’s fiction and media
Selected articles will be published in the third issue of 2022.