Despite the prevalence 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 illnesses because research examining lived experiences has consistently recognized isolation as a main theme.
Reading representative texts to children with illnesses has proven validating, comforting, and helpful in the development of a positive self-image. In addition, exposing children without illnesses to these texts has proven useful in building awareness, increasing understanding, and fostering welcoming social spaces for all children.
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, check out the accompanying article.