Despite the prevalance of childhood cancer, a recent study conducted by Yamaji, Sawaguchi and Ota (2020) found just 30 picturebooks worldwide focused on childhood cancer.
Bishop (1990) highlighted when children see their experiences mirrored in texts, it affirms their identity and sense of belonging to the larger human experience. In contrast, if children cannot see themselves in books or “when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued” (p. x). Exclusion from literature can be particularly devastating for children with cancer because research examining lived experiences has consistently recognized isolation as a main theme (Bjork et al., 2009; Darcy et al., 2014; Sourkes, 2007).
Research shows that reading such texts to children with illnesses and/or disabilities has proven validating, comforting, and helpful in the development of a positive self-image (Goddard, 2011). In addition, exposing children without illnesses and/or disabilities to these texts has proven useful in building awareness, increasing understanding, and fostering welcoming social spaces for all children (Adomat, 2014; Beckett et al., 2010; Iaquinta & Hipsky, 2006; Matthew & Clow, 2007; Nasatir & Horn, 2003).
More books, especially quality books that speak directly to patients' lived experiences are needed.
To learn more about the current state of children's picturebooks featuring main characters with cancer, read the research which informed Evabel's creation.
Adomat, D. (2014). Exploring issues of disability in children’s literature. Disability Studies Quarterly, 34(3). http://dsq-sds .org/article/view/3865
Beckett, A., Ellison, N., Barrett, S., & Shah, S. (2010). “Away with the fairies?”: Disability within primary-age children’s literature. Disability & Society, 25(3), 373–386. https://doi .org/10.1080/09687591003701355
Bjork, M., Wiebe, T., & Hallstrom, I. (2009). An everyday struggle—Swedish families’ lived experiences during a child’s cancer treatment. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 24(5), 423–432. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedn.2008.01.082
Bishop, R. S. (1990). Mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors. Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom, 6(3), ix–xi.
Bland, C. M., & Gann, L. A. (2013). From standing out to being just one of the gang: Guidelines for selecting inclusive picture books. Childhood Education, 89(4), 254–269.
Darcy, L., Knutsson, S., Huus, K., & Enskar, K. (2014). The everyday life of the young child shortly after receiving a cancer diagnosis, from both children’s and parent’s perspectives. Cancer Nursing, 37(6), 445–456.
Doering, K. (2019). Inclusivity in Children’s Literature: Examining Quality of Text, Accuracy of Representation of Children with Cancer in Picturebooks and Children’s Response to Three Specific Texts. (Publication No 13903464). [Doctoral Dissertation, University of Toronto]. Proquest Dissertations Publishing).
Goddard, A. T. (2011). Children’s books for use in bibliotherapy. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 25, 57–61.
Iaquinta, A., & Hipsky, S. (2006). Practical bibliotherapy strategies for the inclusive elementary classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(3), 209–213.
Matthew, N., & Clow, S. (2007). Putting disabled children in the picture: Promoting inclusive children’s books and media. International Journal of Early Childhood, 39(2), 65–78.
Yamaji, N., Sawaguchi, M. and Ota, E. (2020) Talking with Children about Cancer: A Content Analysis of Text in Children’s Picture Books. Health, 12, 750-763.