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Department 1



This study explores what challenges fifth and sixth graders in Pennsylvania encountered as they exchanged letters with children in Fukushima and read a testimony of the Fukushima disaster written by a child there. Trauma theory and seikatsu tsuzurikata, a Japanese traditional critical literacy approach, were used in designing the project and in interpreting children’s engagement with the project. The children demonstrated signs of emerging empathy for children in Fukushima. However, the unspeakable nature of the trauma experience, students’ discomfort, and a pressure to read and write in a structured manner to prepare for the statewide exam posed obstacles for their development of empathy. Despite the challenges, some children acknowledged the importance of recognizing others’ feelings, including pain, no matter where they live. In order to prepare students as empathetic citizens of human society in an increasingly globalized world, the author urges educators to introduce testimonial readings from across the world in elementary classrooms.

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