The Struggle Continues: How the Endings of Children’s Literature Create False Narratives of Social Movements

By Makai Kellogg

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We all know what “The End” means when reading a children’s book. The story has concluded. The last sentence of a book can also indicate to a reader that there is closure. But what are the consequences of that closure when it comes to books about ongoing social movements? Isn’t there always more to the story? Or is the struggle for justice over?

After reading many children’s books about social activism throughout my teaching career, I’ve noticed a pattern, and I’m not the only one. At a recent Anti-Bias Early Childhood Working Group gathering in Washington, D.C., we analyzed and provided feedback on children’s books focused on activism and change. In small groups, we thought about what messages about activism were conveyed. While the discussion focused on how to teach the book, we inevitably arrived at a common question: why did it end that way?

A few of the books had us thinking about the author’s intentions, the effects of endings on students as well as how to use the ending as a teaching tool. In what ways can educators address, question, adapt, omit, and frame book endings so that children understand that the struggle continues?

Here is what we found and our recommendations.

Allison Acosta