A Person's a Person: Children's Rights in Children's Literature

60 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2013 Last revised: 10 Mar 2014

See all articles by Jonathan Todres

Jonathan Todres

Georgia State University College of Law

Sarah Higinbotham

Georgia State University

Date Written: March 15, 2013


Although the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history, children’s rights are still seen in many circles as novel and quaint ideas but not serious legal theory. The reality, however, is that the realization of children’s rights is vital not only for childhood but for individuals’ entire lives. Similarly, although the books children read and have read to them are a central part of their childhood experience, so too has children’s literature been ignored as a rights-bearing discourse and a means of civic socialization. We argue that children’s literature, like all narratives that contribute to our moral sense of the world, help children construct social expectations and frame an understanding of their own specific rights and responsibilities. Arguing that literature is a source of law for children, we explore children’s literature with a view to examining what children learn about their own rights, the rights of others, and the role of rights more broadly in a democratic society. Using Dr. Seuss as a test case, this Article explores the role of children’s literature in children’s rights discourses. This Article also examines recent empirical work on the benefits of human rights education, connecting that research with law and literature perspectives. Ultimately, this Article aims to connect and build upon the fields of children’s rights law, law and literature, children’s literature criticism, human rights, and cultural studies to forge a new multidisciplinary sub-field of study: children’s rights and children’s literature.

Keywords: children's rights, human rights, children's literature, Seuss, cultural studies, equality, nondiscrimination, participation

JEL Classification: I20, K10, K33

Suggested Citation

Todres, Jonathan and Higinbotham, Sarah, A Person's a Person: Children's Rights in Children's Literature (March 15, 2013). Columbia Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 45, Issue 1, pp 1-56, Fall 2013, Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-03, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2234163

Jonathan Todres (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States

Sarah Higinbotham

Georgia State University ( email )

35 Broad Street
Atlanta, GA 30303-3083
United States

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