What Can You Do as an Eco-hero? A Study on the Ecopedagogical Potential of Dutch Non-fictional Environmental Texts for Children

Suzanne van der Beek, Charlotte Lehmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


In the context of a global crisis around climate change, children continue to be largely excluded from environmental conversations. In order to change this, there has been an increased effort to produce children’s media that educates young readers about the origins, effects, and possible solutions to climate change. These environmental texts for children can contribute to the ecopedagogical project and provide children with the information and the language that are necessary to become conscious ecocitizens. This paper analyzes how children’s non-fiction books from the Netherlands enable young readers to develop socio-political agency regarding climate change and position themselves within discussions about this topic. A potential trap for children’s environmental literature lies in its tendency to simplify the complex issue of climate change and to offer potential ways for fighting climate change which are not accessible to all young readers. Therefore, the paper pays specific attention to the processes of inclusion and exclusion that are used in these books. The analysis is structured around Greta Gaard’s critical model for inclusive ecopedagogical texts, based on recognizing and dismantling alienation, hierarchy, and ultimately domination. The study finds that the books selected use contrasting techniques that alienate the reader from the already abstract concept of climate change. They encourage the reader to see themselves as possible “eco heroes” and propose different strategies for contributing to help the direct victims of climate change who are frequently positioned as distanced from the intended young reader. Nature is largely represented as a passive entity, which can play no role in restoring ecological balance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChildren's literature in education
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Children's literature
  • Climate change
  • Environmental literature
  • Ecopedagogy
  • Non-fictional book
  • Greta Gaard


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