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A UVic-UCC project will examine stereotypes in children's literature to encourage critical thinking in schools

Estudiant del doble grau MEi/MEP de la UVic-UCC

A UVic-UCC project will examine stereotypes in children's literature to encourage critical thinking in schools

Europe has a rich and vast heritage of children's literature, ranging from the folk tales of the Brothers Grimm (Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, The Wolf and the Seven Young Goats, etc.) to the tales of Hans Christian Andersen (The Ugly Duckling, The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen), among many others. A current topic of public debate is whether this classic literature reproduces stereotypes and prejudices based on focuses of discrimination such as gender, origin, racialisation, gender identity or social class, and whether its contents should be revised as a result. The research project "Approaching children's literature from an intersectional perspective (Zoom Out)" has been launched in this context, and in order to promote critical thinking on European children's literature. Led by the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC), through the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies (CEIG), it is being funded by the European Erasmus+ programme. 

"Zoom Out" is based on the premise that it is necessary to preserve the legacy of European children's literature - 2 April, the birthday of Hans Christian Andersen, is International Children's Book Day - since this literary heritage contains tools that foster important values. It also believes that books should be read taking into account their historical context as well as their literal content, and their metaphorical and symbolic content (e.g. in fairy tales) should be understood. It also maintains that the reader is an active rather than a passive subject, who creates their own interpretations.  

"The European "Zoom Out" project does not aim to judge books or label them, but instead aims to provide pedagogical resources to foster critical thinking, based on the understanding that boys and girls, with support and using the appropriate tools, can enjoy these books from a more sceptical point of view," explains Gerard Coll-Planas, the principal investigator of the "Zoom Out" project and the director of the CEIG. 

Participation of teachers and students all over Europe 

The primary objective of the "Zoom Out" project is to use children's literature to develop students' language skills, critical thinking and analysis. This goal will be achieved with the involvement of teachers and students from the schools in the development of educational resources to promote social and intercultural skills from an intersectional perspective. The application of intersectionality consists of understanding how different aspects of each person's life experience (origin, social class, gender identity, religious affiliation, etc.) interact and can create specific situations of inequality. The aim is therefore not to combine the aspects of inequality in the experience of students and teachers in classrooms, but to focus on how those aspects interact, and the situations of personal vulnerability and inequality that can arise. 

In addition to Gerard Coll-Planas, the UVic-UCC researchers Glòria Garcia-Romeral, Auba Llompart, Caterina Riba and Mar Binimelis are participating in the "Zoom Out" project. The research will be carried out with two Catalan schools, La Sínia (Vic) and Escola Joan Miró (Barcelona), in addition to the Zezpol Szkol w Dobrzeniu Wielkim school in Poland, and the Osnovna skola Josip Pupacic school in Croatia. Other institutions related to the world of education, including the non-governmental associations Fundacja Laboratorium Zmiany (Poland), Petit Philosophy (Croatia), the Associazione SCOSSE (Italy), and Il Pungiglione Società Cooperativa Sociale Impresa Sociale (Italy), will also be taking part in the project. The budget for this research, which will last 36 months (until September 2026), is 400,000 Euros. 

Innovative and appealing resources 

The innovative nature of the "Zoom Out" project lies in the fact that students and teachers participate in the development of teaching materials from the outset. "This will enable us to map the real needs that arise in classrooms, and prepare the materials based on a practical application is the subject of consensus," explains Coll-Planas. In specific terms, this research, applied to the field of primary education and the early years of secondary school, will work with groups of students aged between 6 and 12 years old. 

Workshops will be held during the project with teachers (two sessions), with trainee teachers (two sessions) and with students (one session for each age group: 6-7 years, 8-10 years and 11-12 years). These workshops will lead to the development of specific pedagogical materials: a Toolbox and a Handbook of Promising Practices, containing content and practical exercises from previous experiences in other contemporary research projects on the use of literary references to explore inequalities in the classroom.
The application of these materials will be tested in other practical sessions: three sessions with teachers, three sessions with trainee teachers, and two sessions with students. The project also includes the creation of training materials specifically for teachers, so that they can adapt existing materials and apply intersectionality in their own pedagogical environment, and an awareness campaign. 

The launch meeting of the "Zoom Out" project, which was attended by all the partners participating, took place on 12 and 13 March.

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