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Constructing childhood for children : an analysis of 1970s award-winning children's literature from the Children's Model Collection at Auckland City Libraries

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posted on 2021-11-22, 10:31 authored by Baker, Sanya Karen

Childhood is not simply a personal experience of an individual human in their early years of life. It is also a social construct which governs the way a society treats its youngest members – if they are considered to be members yet at all.  Children’s literature is an acknowledged source of information about the ideologies adults have both intentionally and unintentionally offered children to help them understand the world and their place in it.  This research involved both content analysis and discourse analysis of award-winning children’s books from the 1970s, which form part of the Children’s Model Collection held at Auckland City Libraries. These books, considered by local librarians to be ‘model literature’ for New Zealand children to read, were used as a window onto the constructions of childhood in this society at that time.   Traditional children’s literature in English supported particular relations of domination through certain ‘institutions’ of childhood – family, friendship, gender, race and religion. The 1970s books also imparted ideologies through these institutions along with themes of land, coming of age and war; all interacting under a humanistic umbrella. Through their treatment of these themes or ‘institutions’, texts in this sample often deliberately challenged traditional relations of domination – with varied levels of success. Children were constructed as leaders in waiting, the hope for the future; a future where tolerance and respect would overcome prejudice, thinking for one’s self would replace conformity and the individual could be the best they could be. However, underlying linguistic mechanisms and ideologies transformed many of these texts into conservators of the very relationships they were intending to change.  The methods of analysis used in this project were successful in locating the ideologies in books created for young people and revealing the degree to which these are agents of their time. These methods then are both eminently suitable for future research and would be a valuable addition to the multi-literacies with which we equip young people


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Library and Information Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Library and Information Studies

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Masters Research Paper or Project



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Information Management


Cullen, Rowena; Holt, Jill