Collaborative Critical Practice: Designing a Children's Picturebook with Resettled Refugees
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People of color and other marginalized communities have long been underrepresented or misrepresented in children’s literature in the United States. Only 13% of children’s books published between 1994 and 2017 included multicultural content. Even fewer picturebooks for young readers are told from the perspectives of refugees. This disparity exists despite an increase in global migration and despite evidence that multicultural storytelling has a profoundly positive impact on young children of all races and cultural backgrounds. Born out of the conviction that designers must be “more conscious of the roles they play in culture, politics, and society, both serving and creating,” (Heller and Vienne) this project seeks to present a research model for how designers might confront complex social issues through collaborative critical practice. Situated within the context of Houston, Texas––a major hub for refugee resettlement––the designer and a local immigrant artist facilitated an art and writing workshop with five resettled refugee children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to create an original picturebook. The collaborative team determined the ideation for the picturebook and verified direction along the way. Through a multi-phase process rooted in participatory and equity-centered design, the design outcome emerged to supplement the slim inventory of contemporary stories told by refugees.