The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 1 - Page 28

things’ lives on the earth. They also kept raising questions to seek an answer for the reason behind the war.

Brad: Yeah they could just live peacefully.

Ms. G: The elephants have really nothing to do with that.

Noah: Yeah really.

Noah: What was the point of the war anyway?

Erin: But we won.

Luke: Well it doesn’t really matter who won. That was still a pretty bad choice of them.

Noah: Maybe we don’t know why, the reason, we don’t have a reason why they did it.

Mandy: People were mean.

Brad: Yeah really.

When Noah raised a question on the reason behind the war, the children started talking about the Pearl Harbor attack. When Erin pointed out that America won the war, Luke said that it did not matter who won the war. Maybe in his mind, it didn’t matter who won because at the end, many lives were sacrificed including the innocent elephants. In literature discussions of Sadako and Faithful Elephants, the children tried to make sense of the war, but they could not find a reasonable answer. What they learned was that the people could be mean because they were the ones who began the war. Like Brad pointed out, if the war would not have happened, the elephants would have lived peacefully. If the children looked at the war from Brad’s perspective, it was the human who brought the cruelty to the world that impacted everyone’s lives. At the end, through the stories of Sadako and Faithful Elephants, the children generated discussions around the war and humanity. These are not easy topics for the children to discuss; however, they were able to talk about them critically when the time and space were created along with the relevant literature provided by the teacher.

Taking Actions for Social Change

The data analysis did not uncover any instances of children interacting around the fourth dimension, taking actions for social change. This dimension was missing in the children’s discussions in this study, but we considered what possibilities the students may have selected to take actions after discussing Sadako and Faithful Elephants. Connecting to the war and its impact, one option would have provided the children a link to study environmental consequences of war. They could also engage in letter writing, Skyping, or social media campaigns with military and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They could also write letters to personnel who are working towards world peace. Students could also study the impact of animal care and humane options to deal with the fallout of war on animals. Our list is not exhaustive, but demonstrates a commitment to putting actions in place that would help students move beyond an emotional response to wars, natural disasters, or social hardships.

What We learned About Critical Literacy

Through literature discussions on Sadako and Faithful Elephants, the students in Ms. Green’s class had opportunities to think about the war and humanity. The issues that the students discussed, such as killing elephants during the war, people’s lives in the war zone, and the reason for the war, are not the conversation topics that the students would encounter in their daily lives. However, they were able to discuss those issues because Ms. Green brought multicultural literature that addressed those issues (Cai, 1998) and created a time and space for them to discuss. At the end, the students thought about the peaceful world that people could have without the war. We do not know what kind of actions that the students will take to keep this world peaceful when they grow up. We can, however, imagine that these students who deeply thought about people’s and animals’ lives affected by the war would pay close attention on the world’s news and make efforts to keep the world peaceful.

"....not easy topics for the children to discuss;however, they were able to talk about them critically when the time and space were created along with the relevant literature provided by the teacher."