Abstract 4- Volume 3, Number 3, Winter 2008

Social Studies Research and Practice

Volume 3, Number 3, Winter 2008



Did the Bombs Just Fall from the Sky? Examining Agency in a Text Set of World War II Children Literature

James S. Damico
Indiana University, Bloomington
Mark Baildon
National Institute of Education, Singapore
Karen L. Lowenstein
Boettcher Teachers Program, Denver, Colorado


This article examines the ways in which the authors of a text set of children’s literature constructed the United States government’s decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Analysis of this text set reveals the ways agency is mostly absent, displaced, or obscured through the grammatical devices of nominalization and passivization. Nominalization refers to an author’s use of verbs as nouns, and passivization refers to an author’s use of passive verbs without the presence of agents. To support teachers and students toward investigations of how authors use nominalization and passivization to construct historical events in different ways, five guiding questions about agency are presented. Grappling with these kinds of questions can engender critical reading practices of which readers can more actively enact their own agency as readers of history and as citizens in a democracy.

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About the Author(s)…

James S. Damico is Assistant Professor in Literacy, Culture & Language Education at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. He earned his Ph.D. at Michigan State University in Curriculum, Teaching, and Educational Policy. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in critical reading, children’s literature, writing, and research methods. Some of his recent research focuses on how readers analyze, interpret, and evaluate Internet texts.

Mark Baildon is Assistant Professor in Humanities and Social Studies Education at the National Institute of Education in Singapore. He has a Ph.D. in Curriculum, Teaching, and Educational Policy from Michigan State University. His teaching and research interests include inquiry-based social studies education and the uses of technology to support inquiry and multiliteracies. Mark has also taught social studies in secondary schools in the United States, Israel, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and Taiwan.

Karen Lowenstein is Co-Director of the Boettcher Teachers Program in Denver, Colorado. She earned her Ph.D. at Michigan State University in Curriculum, Teaching, and Educational Policy.  Her teaching and research interests focus on novice teacher learning, residency-based teacher education, and issues of linguistic and cultural diversity in K-12 classrooms.

Primary contact mailing address: Indiana University, Literacy, Culture & Language Education, W. W. Wright School of Education, 201 N. Rose Ave., Bloomington, IN 47405; email: damico@indiana.edu