Sneaking Death Into the Classroom

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Currently there is (in England) no specific directive to teach about death in schools, however the focus on ‘wellbeing’ and mental health of children can allow for the subject of death to be addressed in some way.
Since the 1980s picture books have begun increasingly to “look at death within the ordinariness of everyday experience” (Coombs 2014 p.2) and thus offer a potentially safe way to allow adults and children to talk about and ask questions about death together.
The range of picture books addressing death in a clear and direct manner has begun to mirror the ubiquity of death in children’s books in the early Victorian period -though with less gore and without the moral overtones. Now these books offer simple factual information or consider the emotional impact of the loss in ways familiar to most young children: often the death of pets and grandparents, but also the refugee experience.
As Higgins (1999) reminded us: “death is a part of children’s lives, let’s not pretend it is not” (p.82).
Here I consider a range of picture books for the primary school child and explore the ways in which they offer a simple way of ‘sneaking’ death into the classroom.
Coombs, S. (2014) Death wears a T-shirt- listening to young people talk about death. Mortality, Vol 19 (3): pp.284-302.
Higgins, S. (1999) Death education in the Primary School. International Journal of Children’s Spirituality. Vol 4 pp77-90.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventDeath, Dying and Disposal 14 - University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Sept 20198 Sept 2019
Conference number: 14


ConferenceDeath, Dying and Disposal 14
Abbreviated titleDDD14
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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