With regard to the rebel figure present in children's literature, how do you think different readers may respond to such figures and to the ideological alternative they are proposing?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Rebel figures in children's literature often present readers with questions that they have not considered. They force readers to critically assess what is essentially someone else's story but with an active rather than a passive interest and involvement. Accepting the contents of a story can be satisfying and, when reading for superficial interest and escape, it is enough. However, most young readers are required to read for learning purposes and thus they must delve into the characters, questioning motives and events, rather than accepting them at face value.  

Accordingly, there is a broad spectrum for interpretation. Religious and cultural backgrounds will cause young readers to reflect different opinions in whatever they have been assigned to read. Stereotypes become instrumental in drawing conclusions as children base their understanding on the world in which they live and so rebel characters then allow children to explore outside their familiar environment. Children are invited to consider worlds that are unexpected or perhaps not ordinarily allowed. The historical aspect of stories with rebel characters also allows for the development of a perspective that may otherwise escape most young readers. Some historical-type novels encourage children to research real-life events that would otherwise remain unfamiliar. Animal Farm is a aimed at children in the 14 to 17 year age group but younger readers can appreciate the story without any political or historical concerns. No one is judging communists or governments. It is not over-complicated and becomes obvious that absolute power can never succeed. Job done! The Boy in The Striped Pajamas also allows children to explore the perspective of others in a seemingly undefined space. The historical references assist the adults to place the novel in context for the purposes of teaching. What is taught is primarily defined by the location, perspective and cultural background of the teacher.    

In the development of children into "good" adults, there are methods that are preferred in a westernized environment that may not suit a developing country, for example. By reading literature where there are prevalent rebel characters, children from any environment can benefit from the "ideological alternative" presented to them. They can accept or reject the views expressed without any concern about being judged. Often, young readers are able to have their own adventure when faced with a rebel character and the moral dilemma when they must choose to admire or reject a character ensures that children can get the most out of reading. They can secretly admire someone that they know would be frowned upon and it allows for what may appear to be risk- taking without any actual need to take risks. Children can find release in rebel characters from an existence that is perhaps too restrictive or too defined. Children do not need to meet anyone's expectations when they are considering rebel characters and their decision-making abilities may even be enhanced without any philosophical intervention at all. 

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