Balancing teacher power and children’s rights: rethinking the use of picturebooks in multicultural primary schools in England




This article offers an autoethnographic reconsideration of a primary school teacher’s practice and children’s interpretation of picturebooks in multicultural primary schools in England. It considers the balance teachers strike between respecting children’s rights to freedom of thought and expression, and wielding their own power as directors of learning. It links key aspects of international human rights law on children to concepts from literacy studies and multicultural children’s literature: representation of minority groups, pictorial interpretation, critical literacy and teacher power. It brings out nuanced interpretations of the picturebook The Arrival as a ‘mirror’ for learners from migrant backgrounds. This mirror may reflect children’s experiences but also offer a frosted, distorted or blank view where young learners do not empathise with characters. We argue that children’s rights within education should include freedom of thought and expression and freedom to interpret literature; teachers should reflect on their intentions when using literature, and not pose barriers to this freedom.


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Author Biographies

Stefan Kucharczyk, ARTiculate Education UK

Stefan Kucharczyk is a primary school teacher and consultant with ten years’ experience. He specialises in improving the teaching and practice of general literacy and creative writing in primary schools in the UK. In 2014, he founded teaching consultancy business, ARTiculate Education to fill a skills gap in the National Curriculum for England and Wales. He is also an Associate Lecturer with the Open University. He publishes widely. See his website:

Helen Hanna, East China Normal University

Dr Helen Hanna is an Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of International and Comparative Education, East China Normal University, Shanghai. She is also an educational consultant and trainer in writing for academic publication. Her research interests and publications relate to educational diversity and inclusion, particularly of ethnic, racial and national minorities and migrant learners, and creative research methods. See her website:


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How to Cite

Kucharczyk, S., & Hanna, H. (2020). Balancing teacher power and children’s rights: rethinking the use of picturebooks in multicultural primary schools in England. Human Rights Education Review, 3(1), 49–68.



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