Children’s Literature and International Safe Spaces: Toolkit development for third sector partners working with displaced children

The main aim of this interdisciplinary project was to expand a recently awarded AHRC research network (AH/R004218/1) to include further third sector partners who work directly with migrant children, young people and their families in Egypt and Mexico. Working collaboratively with our non-academic partners we provided pathways toward culturally and ethically designed research that sensitively meets the emotional well-being of families living in contexts of flux. This grant secured costs for mobility and network workshops to be held in Cairo and Monterrey.  The network workshops:

  1. Strengthened knowledge and understanding of how to draw on the potential of children’s literature to address the educational and emotional needs of displaced children, young people and their families.
  2. Developed a toolkit that could be used to support partner organisations and their staff to use children’s literature in locally identified safe spaces, evaluate its effectiveness, and report and share the outcomes with identified partners, while protecting the children, young people and families involved.
  3. Developed a shared understanding of ethical research that makes use of children’s literature as a safe space to ensure network readiness for a further grant applications.

PI and Co-Is

PI - Dr Julie McAdam, University of Glasgow, School of Education

Co-Is – Prof Evelyn Arizpe, University of Glasgow, School of Education and Azadeh Amadi

Start and End Date

January 2018 – May 2018

Funder and Funding Amount

Scottish Funding Council – Global Challenges Research Fund (Small Grants) £15,000

Project News

The picturebook mediation workshops created were delivered in dual language formats to ensure wider access for staff carrying out the training. Staff attending the workshops were provided opportunities to select the picturebooks that would suit their contexts, many selected wordless texts in order to include children and families from non-Arabic and non-Spanish speaking countries to enjoy the narratives and engage in storytelling. The toolkits and private facebook groups emerging from the workshops mean trainers can share materials with new picturebook mediators ensuring sustainability and wider access to the knowledge.

The NGOs mentioned in the report have specifically incorporated the picturebook mediation training sessions into their educational and psychosocial programmes, making necessary local adjustments to target the protection of unaccompanied children. In the case of the Syrian communities, The Fard Foundation are planning to extend the potential of storytelling to include the unaccompanied elderly to strengthen intergenerational relationships and create social cohesion amongst their diaspora. Educate Me have used the training to provide ways for school counsellors to recognise problems from the perspective of new arrival children. This has led to changes in their practice, as they move away from didactic approaches of telling children what to do, to using narratives to re-position thoughts, feelings and actions.

Examples include:

The Fard Foundation teachers have incorporated activities demonstrated at the workshops into their Innovative Learning summer school project (funded by Save the Children) and will evaluate the uptake and use of the children’s literature as part of this project report.

The Catholic Relief Service have trained 9 of their staff to use the picturebook mediation workshops with 120 KG teachers working in over 20 community schools in the greater Cairo area. These teachers will use the activities alongside UNICEF supplied picturebooks.  The child protection unit will be trained to use the activities with 120 unaccompanied minors to address issues connected to resilience and trauma.

St. Andrew’s Refugee Service have trained 8 of their Nursery staff to become picturebook mediators. Staff in the Psychosocial team have trained 12 case workers to use wordless picturebooks to engage new arrivals who may not be familiar with English or Arabic to speak about their concerns.

Educate me have trained community school counsellors to use the children’s literature to encourage children to imagine problems from alternative perspectives.

Salas de lectura (Mexican Ministry of Culture) mediators are supporting other mediators in their area using the toolkit (and it is incorporated into the wider Programme for reading with migrant populations in other states).

Albergue las memorias (for LGBTQ migrants) incorporated the use of wordless picturebooks into their reading sessions