In their own words: the use of art and narrative to explore community and citizenship with children




Swaine, Laura

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The increasing globalization of information, culture, and knowledge problematizes traditional notions of citizenship. These contemporary notions of citizenship emphasize the growing subjective and individualistic nature of civic identity as well as a push towards engagement at a community rather than the political level. The shift in the concept of citizenship, from what it means to what one does, implies that while globalization is expanding private and public worlds outwardly, the individual person is looking closer to home for ways to engage and relate through their own personal lives and stories. Citizenship is no longer confined to the adult realm of politics and policy, it has evolved into a concept that has potential to include rather than exclude, and strengthen nationalism, community identities, and global presence. Often thought of as merely “citizens in the making”, children are excluded from civic or political engagement until they are of legal age. This study aimed to show that children do view themselves as citizens and understand their role in the community as a means for civic engagement. Through the use of narrative inquiry and arts-informed methods this research focused on children’s own perception of civic identity and the potential role that community engagement has on this identity development. The use of storytelling and painting/drawing allows children to express themselves in a more inclusive and holistic manner, which also allows them to communicate more concisely what they really think and feel. The key findings of this study were that children do identify as citizens through their individual notions (I-identities) or the small groups they are a part of in their immediate community (We’s-identities), and that they recognize this citizenship through membership and responsibility. These findings are significant because they imply that children do see themselves as citizens and that their civic identities go through a growth process from individual (I-identities), to small groups (We’s-identities), to the larger society as a whole (We-identities), and that is through community engagement and education that membership and responsibility is recognized. This research could be used to enhance child and youth programming, educational curriculum, and community projects to order increase skill development and engagement in relation to how children move through and comprehend these civic identity stages.



citizenship, community, children, narrative, art