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Children's Rights/Child Labor -- A Photographic Essay
Kenneth T. Saroka, East Brunswick (NJ) High School

CORE QUESTION: What are the conditions under which children are forced to work?

OVERVIEW: Throughout the world, 250 million children are working to earn money for their families; 125 million work full time. The conditions under which they labor are often brutal and because they work, they are denied an education to improve their condition, they are denied the protection of the law, and are denied the opportunity to be a child.

TIME REQUIRED: One 40-minute classroom period with some carryover into another 40-minute period.


INTERDISCIPLINARY CONNECTIONS: Social Studies, Visual Arts, Composition

NEW JERSEY CORE CONTENT STANDARDS : 6.1: 10-13; 6.2: 9-11; 6.3: 9,12,14; 6.4: 9-13; 6.5 13-5; 6.6 13-15; 6.7: 11-12; 6.8: 12-17.


  1. Students will describe the conditions that children work under through the world
  2. Students will contrast differences in regions through interpretation of photographic evidence
  3. Students will evaluate the harshness of life and relate to their own circumstances in a written essay form.



Have the students access the Internet and go to and have them click the STOLEN DREAMS label. Allow them to read the introduction before entering the gallery of photographs. There are 21 photographs with captions. A navigation menu is located on the left side. The teacher could narrate or allow the students to view the pictures on their own at their own pace. After completely viewing all photos, teacher will then ask for the students to offer their opinions of what they saw and guide the discussion towards how children in the United States view work. If there are any recent immigrants to the US from "developing" nations, ask them to contribute their experiences from their former home countries. This would begin the process of eliminating stereotypes, break down inherent xenophobia, and allow for more open discussion.

After the students have exchanged ideas in an honest discussion, have the students bring up a word processing program. Instruct them to select one of the pictures which shows a child engaged in labor and write a journal entry as that child. The journal entries should note which photograph (by number and brief description) the student is using as his/her model. The journal entries should contain separate paragraphs on the conditions of the child's labor (physical, mental, financial) and on their outlook towards life and growing up. Print before time has expired for your class.

II) IF A COMPUTER LAB IS NOT AVAILABLE--but you can display the pictures on the TV....

Display the pictures, discuss, then go back and select several examples for the students to use, then allow the students to write their journal entries, collect when finished.

As a follow-up: After the essays are returned, the teacher could read several good examples aloud, asking the students why they selected them and why they chose to respond in the way that they did.


Please e-mail the copyright holder at and explain that you wish to use several of the photos in handout for your class. If permission is granted, prepare handouts, with proper citation, by cutting and pasting the photos and captions to worksheets. This photo essay is from a project sponsored by Harvard University's School of Public Health.


Access to a computer with the ability to demonstrate the images on the computer onto a larger TV screen is needed. Access to a computer lab for your entire class is a better way to proceed.

REFERENCES: STOLEN DREAMS, a photo essay by Dr. David Parker, available at Suggest that you try searching images on ( click IMAGES--then type in Child Labor as the topic) for more examples. The use of those pictures found on such a search is governed by the copyright holder and may not be available freely.

ASSESSMENT: Quality class participation in the discussions should be noted in whatever manner is consistent with your grading rules. Essays should be graded on their detail, authenticity, and the ability to comprehend and synthesize visual information into an expanded writing.

To learn more about the influence of Children's Rights on our global society, click on the links below:
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