Todres book event on Sept. 7

Todres Presents on ‘Human Rights in Children’s Literature’ at Book Celebration

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“One of our main goals in writing this book is to start a conversation, start many conversations, about how children learn about their rights and their responsibility to respect others’ rights” said Jonathan Todres, professor of law and an internationally recognized expert on children’s rights

He presented his book, Human Rights in Children’s Literature: Imagination and the Narrative of Law (Oxford University Press, 2016), on Sept. 7, at Georgia State Law.

The book, which Todres co-wrote with Sarah Higinbotham, explores how children’s rights—such as identity rights, the right to be heard, and the right to be free from discrimination—are embedded in children’s literature from Peter Rabbit to Horton Hears a Who! to Harry Potter.

The book brings together children’s rights law, literary theory, and human rights education research to argue that for children to fully realize their human rights, they first have to imagine and understand them.

“Children have a right to be heard,” Todres said. “They have a right to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.”

In his presentation, Todres used examples from the book and discussed how children can grow to realize their rights and to respect the rights of others, and how human rights norms are disseminated so that they make a difference in children’s lives.

Reading an excerpt from Yertle the Turtle, which tells the story of King Yertle standing on top of all the other turtles in the pond and the bottom turtle, Mack, who pleads with Yertle for relief as the turtles are in pain from being stacked. Todres explained how the main character, Mack, uses terms like “we” and “us” to teach children the importance of everyone’s rights, not just one’s own rights. Todres also noted how the reading experience offers an imaginative world where children can explore difficult themes.

Todres discussed various topics including selecting what children’s books to read, the lack of diversity in children’s literature, and his interest in exploring global perspectives on human rights themes in children’s stories.

Todres stressed the importance of building a human rights culture and a rights respecting society, and recognizing the emergence of children as members of that society. For those interested in learning more about the project, visit jonathantodres.com/human-rights-in-childrens-literature/.

In connection with this event, Georgia State Law sponsored a book drive to benefit Fugees Family, a Georgia-based nonprofit organization devoted to working with child refugees. Attendees were encouraged to bring a book for donation. Fugees Family is particularly in need of new or gently used books for older children and youth. For more information about Fugees Family, visit fugeesfamily.org.

This event was co-sponsored by Georgia State University College of Law’s Center for Law, Health & Society, Student Health Law Association, Parents Attending Law School and International and Comparative Law Society.