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On Empathy Development in Young Children

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During the formative years, habits, outlooks, and attitudes develop which influence social interaction throughout life. Because empathy is crucial in social interaction, empathy development should be supported. Evidence of empathy is first observed around the age of two (Radke-Yarrow et

During the formative years, habits, outlooks, and attitudes develop which influence social interaction throughout life. Because empathy is crucial in social interaction, empathy development should be supported. Evidence of empathy is first observed around the age of two (Radke-Yarrow et al., 1983, 1984; Spinrad & Fabes, 2009). The purpose of this thesis is to examine empathy in children from multiple perspectives. The scientific literature reviews the discovery of the mirror neuron system (MNS). A study on nine- and ten-year-old children showed a correlation between MNS activity and empathic concern (Pfeifer et al. 2008). Another study with a mean age of 11 demonstrated that high emotional intelligence (EI) resulted in more nominations for "cooperation" and less for "aggression" (Petrides, Sangareau, Furnham & Frederickson, 2006). The three most common EI tests (MSCEIT, TEIQue, Bar-On) are modeled to measure empathy (Bar-On, 2006; Goleman 1998, 1995; Mayer & Caruso 1997; Petrides & Furnham 2001). Psychologists agree that low measures are linked to narcissistic and aggressive behavior. The Observational Study analyzed both evidence of empathy and a lack of empathy in interactions with three- and four-year-old children. Personal experiences were also shared on how empathy was understood and practiced. Lastly, the children's short story was written to support empathy development through fiction-reading.

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2018-12

The Butanding: A Narrative Illustration Book and Exhibition

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My work focuses on the themes of grief, closure, and celebration of life. Life is a catalyst both celebration and grief. Feeling joy when a life is introduced is as common as feeling pain when a life is lost. When

My work focuses on the themes of grief, closure, and celebration of life. Life is a catalyst both celebration and grief. Feeling joy when a life is introduced is as common as feeling pain when a life is lost. When I lost my maternal grandmother nearly a year ago, I felt grief accompanied with guilt. I never got a chance to say goodbye since we lived so far apart, her residing in the Philippines and me residing in the United States. In order to get rid of these negative emotions, I sought closure. I attended her funeral, and now I want to celebrate her life through my artwork.
My work comes in two parts: an illustration book titled The Butanding and an illustration exhibition. The book will be published through lulu.com and made available to the public. The exhibition component will be held from March 2nd to March 6th in Gallery 100 as part of my senior exhibition Post Pre-Production with six other colleagues in the School of Art. The illustration book is a narration of a little girl and her growing friendship with a whale shark. The overarching theme of the creative project is closure with the passing away of loved ones.
The Butanding is a narrative illustration book about a young girl befriending the local menace of her village, the whale shark. Similar to my own experience, the main subject—the young girl—of my narrative is shown suffering from grief and guilt over her grandmother’s death. My work illustrates a progression of the young girl’s emotional state as she goes on a journey with the whale shark or locally known in the Philippines as the “butanding”. It provides the scenario of a grieving individual who gets the chance to reconnect with a deceased loved one and rebuild relationships that were lost.

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2015-05

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Homonormativity in Children's Literature

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The front cover of Uncle What-Is-It is Coming to Visit, a 1993 children’s book by Michael-Willhoite, features two white children frightened by the hairy arm and upturned wrist of an unseen adult. The arm is clad in a frilly pink

The front cover of Uncle What-Is-It is Coming to Visit, a 1993 children’s book by Michael-Willhoite, features two white children frightened by the hairy arm and upturned wrist of an unseen adult. The arm is clad in a frilly pink and orange sleeve, and gaudy bracelets hang from the wrist. The plot hinges on the children’s uncertainty about an uncle they have yet to meet; they know he is gay but are unsure of what it means. Before their mother can explain, she is distracted by a kitchen mishap and the siblings turn to other neighborhood children for answers. They encounter a host of descriptions that terrify them: one neighbor describes gay people as “fags [and] queers [who] really want to be women.” He shows the children a newspaper clipping photo of “a large man dressed in a frilly dress [with] a turban piled high with fruit on his head,” an implicitly racialized caricature reminiscent of Latina style icon Carmen Miranda. Another neighbor describes gay people as “dressed up in black leather. Zippers and chains all over...Dark glasses [and] chaps” (Willhoite, 1993). After having nightmares of men with sinister expressions in tropical-themed drag and leather, the children are overjoyed to discover that their uncle seems “normal.” Relative to depictions of other gay people in the book, Uncle Brett is normal because he is nonthreatening—he is white with short, straight, brown hair; he wears a plain, blue, collared shirt and brown dress pants; he carries a brown briefcase; and he enjoys and excels at activities appropriate for his gender, like catch. Although the book seems to have an affirming message about accepting queer people, it sends a clear message about which queer people are to be feared by children and which are nonthreatening. Nonthreatening queers are those who seem most like people mainstream western society considers normal: people who conform to expected gender roles, who have a vested interest parenting, and who are white and middle-upper class. These nonthreatening queers are by far the most represented in queer-themed literature for children. Based on a survey of 68 children’s books with queer characters, this paper argues that the representation of queer identities in children’s literature upholds more than challenges heteronormativity. I will first address ways many of the books perpetuate gender normativity by problematizing young male characters’ gender-transgressing behavior, portraying queer adults with less threatening gender presentations, and upholding gender binarism; next, I will address how the majority of the books promote repro-narrativity by focusing on monogamous couples’ strong desires and concerted efforts to have/raise children; I will then address race and class and the way white and upper-middle class queer characters are overrepresented while non-white and lower-class queer characters are underrepresented or not represented at all.

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2012-12

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Children's perceptions of gender as studied through pronoun use

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Gendered language has been a topic of study for centuries. The most recent efforts to promote inclusive language have been championed by parents, teachers, and social reformers over the last thirty years. Replicating in part a research study

Gendered language has been a topic of study for centuries. The most recent efforts to promote inclusive language have been championed by parents, teachers, and social reformers over the last thirty years. Replicating in part a research study that was done over thirty years ago, this study examines what effects have taken place in children's perceptions of male and female roles in regards to specific activities and occupations and how their perceptions compare to the current work force, what role children's literature has played in these changes, and what children's natural speech in describing personified animals can tell us about their subconscious gender labeling. The results were remarkable in two ways: native language evidently exudes little emphasis on pronoun choice, and children are more readily acceptable of gender equality than that portrayed in either Caldecott winning children's books or real life as seen through current labor statistics.

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2011

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Scrumdiddlyumptious stories: reflections and reinforcements of ideological structures in Roald Dahl's books for children

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Roald Dahl's books for children have often been characterized as deviating from "normal" plots in books for children because they feature elements and themes (e.g., violence, crude/rude behavior and humor, inversions of authority) that make representatives of the dominant culture

Roald Dahl's books for children have often been characterized as deviating from "normal" plots in books for children because they feature elements and themes (e.g., violence, crude/rude behavior and humor, inversions of authority) that make representatives of the dominant culture (parents, school officials, teachers, librarians, etcetera) uncomfortable. Rather than view the stories holistically, challengers are quick to latch on to the specific incidents within these texts that cause discomfort, and use the particular as grounds to object to the whole. A deeper, and more critical, look reveals that instead of straying from established elements and themes in children's stories, Dahl's works have much in common with fairy tales--narratives that have endured in multiple iterations and over millennia. As with fairy tales, Dahl's stories for children offer readers ways to interpret--to make sense of and derive meaning from--their lives, while reflecting and reinforcing the ideological structures (family, appropriate behavior, capitalism) within which we find ourselves.

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2013