The Rabbits: Culturally Responsive Pedagogies through Children's Literature in Teacher Education

Year: 2019

Author: Carter, Jenni

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper argues for the significance of story and narrative in culturally responsive pedagogies, particularly developing an understanding of impact of culture, cultural identity and linguistic background as an ethically responsible approach to examining how these can be advanced through engaging with children’s literature. This paper argues that an ethically responsible approach disrupts moral certainty around claims as what constitutes good pedagogies and good ways of knowing about story and narrative, and the ways in which the stories of others and knowing and being otherwise, are presented in children’s texts.

This paper reports on a case study within a fourth year Bachelor of Education (primary/middle) course, with the aim of providing rich conceptual resources to further culturally inclusive pedagogies in the English Curriculum. The text ‘The Rabbits’, by Shaun Tan provided a focus for a literary analysis informed by settler colonialism, where a range of learning experiences examined the political and ethical nature of representation. The paper reports on the process of analysis with some examples of the insights made and challenges the students identified for their work as teachers. Importantly, for these students, there was an awareness that critical literacy must challenge ways of knowing that are brought to text analysis that retain entrenched positions of privilege and a taken for granted moral order. The paper concludes with an argument that an ethically responsible approach to culturally responsive pedagogy in the English curriculum must take up Haraways’ challenge of looking at what matters in the stories that are told and shared with children and young people, and the responsibility to think and know otherwise. Furthermore, that doing so demands a responsibility to challenge the normative orders and conceptual, institutional, and political parameters that are advanced through curriculum and pedagogical policies that limit ways of understanding complexity and difference.