WOW Currents

Poverty Representations in Children’s Literature

By Seemi Aziz, The University of Arizona

Poverty and social exclusion (due to poverty) are a sad fact of life, globally. Abject poverty and insatiable hunger and thirst impacts various walks of life and all kinds of people, but its impact is stronger, heart wrenching, and more powerful when it comes to young children. Hunger and thirst are a part of this, and it is never more deeply felt than now when Muslims are observing Ramadan globally. Consciously refraining from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset every day for a month while living in the affluence of urban life in Western nations is very different from shortage or lack of food or water in refugee camps or war torn regions where water and food are already scarce in the relentless heat of summer months. Children’s literature in the USA has mostly been resistant to share these hardships and facts of life with the youth. Happy thoughts and memories are shared freely within picturebooks. We can observe this trend continue but with many recent exceptions where poverty, lives of young refugees and children living in war torn countries, are coming to the fore.

Interior illustration from Pablo Finds a Treasure by Andree Poulin and Isabelle Malenfant.

Interior illustration from Pablo Finds a Treasure by Andree Poulin and Isabelle Malenfant.

Continue reading