Sustainability in Children's and Young Adult Literature: An Analysis of Environmental Themes

Dr. Judith V. Lechner
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There is no dearth of voices calling for effective environmental education and while in the United States there are no federally mandated guidelines, most states have some environmental standards built into their social studies and science curricula. Most of the emphasis of education, however, is on reforms and changes that have nothing to do with the critical issues identified by thinkers in the environmental movement, that by our habits of profligate waste, insatiable desire for goods, and belief that growth is essential for the economic viability of communities and nations, we are fast approaching the limits of a sustainable earth. While our children may be learning about rain forest ecology they are not learning about the impact our habits have on the deforestation of those as well as the temperate forests and other ecosystems closer to home. Children’s literature, however, represent a rich resource for helping children develop values that will promote sustainable living.

Because narratives, whether fictional on non-fictional, are particularly compelling and are more likely than factual works to influence people’s values, I will focus on narrative type of literature for children. I will present research results of the way in which environmental themes have been developed in recent (last 15 years) children’s and young adult literature, will offer criteria for evaluating books with environmental themes, and will identify outstanding environmentally themed books for children and young adults.

Keywords: Environmental Sustainability Themes in Literature Children's Literature, Young Adult Literature, Environmental Education
Stream: Social Sustainability
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Sustainability in Children's and Young Adult Literature

Dr. Judith V. Lechner

Professor, Department of Educational Foundations, Leadership, and Technology, Auburn University

Professor Lechner teaches children's literature and reference in the Auburn University's College of Education. She has researched and written on the topics of award winning science trade-books, international/multicultural literature, and biographies. Most recently she has edited and has written cross-cultural introductions for Allyn & Bacon Anthology of Traditional Literature, 2004. Environmental sustainability has been a long-standing interest and concern of hers, and she has compiled several bibliographies of environmental literature in support of Earth Day celebrations at Auburn University.

Ref: S06P0241