Issue Theme: Trauma, Loss, and Literacies


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Issue Theme: Trauma, Loss, and Literacies

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Becoming Co-Witnesses to the Fukushima Disaster in an Elementary Literacy Classroom
Kaoru Miyazawa
Abstract: This study explores what challenges fifth and sixth graders in Pennsylvania encountered as they exchanged letters with children in Fukushima and read a testimony of the Fukushima disaster written by a child there. Trauma theory and seikatsu tsuzurikata, a Japanese traditional critical literacy approach, were used in designing the project and in interpreting children’s engagement with the project. The children demonstrated signs of emerging empathy for children in Fukushima. However, the unspeakable nature of the trauma experience, students’ discomfort, and a pressure to read and write in a structured manner to prepare for the statewide exam posed obstacles for their development of empathy. Despite the challenges, some children acknowledged the importance of recognizing others’ feelings, including pain, no matter where they live. In order to prepare students as empathetic citizens of human society in an increasingly globalized world, the author urges educators to introduce testimonial readings from across the world in elementary classrooms.

Becoming Unstuck: Racism and Misogyny as Traumas Diffused in the Ordinary
Stephanie Jones and Karen Spector
Abstract: This article presents an analysis of a narrative arc that began in the art room and continued over three days of crises, suffering, impasse, and healing experienced by children in an informal, neighborhood-based learning space called the Playhouse. Racism and misogyny—and their social, political, and ideological means of reproduction—are ordinary in our society. Through them, trauma circulates within bodies and in collective biographies. Using posthumanist and affect theories, we explore the constraints of traditional anti-racist and anti-misogynist pedagogies and show how opening up the possibility for the training of intuition, becoming unstuck, and moving on to new genres of protest and healing in the face of suffering create new possibilities for becoming in the world.

Challenging, Rewarding, Emotion Work: Critical Witnessing in an After-School Book Club
Amanda Haertling Thein and Renita R. Schmidt
Abstract: Current scholarship documents the importance of language arts teachers creating connections between students' lives and literacy experiences through practices of critical witnessing wherein teachers witness students' individual stories of trauma and disrupt marginalization experienced through schooling. This qualitative study of a preservice teacher's experiences with critical witnessing in an afterschool book club illuminates the challenging and rewarding emotion work that is required of being and becoming a critical witness. Findings suggest that critical witnessing requires emotion work of resisting and challenging assumptions, sitting with discomfort and confusion, and making deliberate choices about exposing vulnerabilities. Further, findings suggest that emotion work can create spaces where historically marginalized students might take significant risks, both in giving voice to their lived experiences and engaging in challenging literacy practices. Recommendations are offered for increasing teachers' critical emotional knowledge with the goal of leveraging emotion work toward disrupting and creating equitable classrooms.

RESEARCH & POLICY: Let's Start with Heartbreak: The Perilous Potential of Trauma in Literature
Elizabeth Dutro
Abstract: This column explores the complexities of considering trauma in literacy classrooms and the need to foster pedagogies that approach children’s trauma critically and compassionately.

LANGUAGE ARTS LESSONS: Discussing Racial Trauma Using Visual Thinking Strategies
Roberta Price Gardner
Abstract: This article describes how a guided exposure model provided opportunities for agency and racial healing for young readers/viewers as they engaged with a picturebook about enslavement.

CHILDREN’S LITERATURE REVIEWS: Books about Experiencing and Overcoming Trauma for K–8 Readers
Grace Enriquez, Katie Egan Cunningham, Erika Thulin Dawes, and Mary Ann Cappiello
Abstract: In this column, we feature books that emphasize the courage, resiliency, and human connection that are key to making that first step and overcoming trauma.

PERSPECTIVES ON PRACTICE: Journaling as Reciprocity: Creating Healing Connections through Loss
Kate Shands Haq
Abstract: One veteran teacher narrates how building relationships through journaling allows a classroom to work through trauma, connect via mutual experiences, and grow as writers.