Faculty profile: Professor Sara M. Grimes

Redefining children's literature in the digital age

Since her arrival at the iSchool in the summer of 2010, Assistant Professor Sara Grimes’s classes have been packed with students interested in children’s literature.

photo of Professor Sara M. GrimesBut there’s a twist: these students want to learn about children’s literature in the digital age. And Professor Grimes is extremely well-qualified to teach in this relatively new field.

On gaming

A self-described gamer and regular blogger — her blog is titled Gamine Expedition  —  Professor Grimes highlights the importance of first-hand experience with videogames.

Children themselves are too often envisioned as passive consumers of media, rather than as active producers and manipulators of media.

“For one, you have to know how to play — games have conventions and design standards, and they also have a sort of language of their own.  I don’t see them as some sort of strange ‘new’ and scary gadget — they’re as much a part of my childhood and cultural experience as television or computers. I think that helps me to avoid either fetishizing or demonizing them."

Sara's background

Originally from Maniwaki, Quebec, Professor Grimes completed undergraduate studies in Communications at the University of Ottawa, then moved west to Simon Fraser University where she obtained an MA and PhD in the same field. She was originally interested in producing children’s media.

“I was really inspired by Jim Henson, and wanted to follow his lead in creating amazing characters, engaging stories, and beautiful worlds for children of all ages to explore and enjoy.”

Children as active media producers

She discovered that many aspects of children’s media were worth studying.

photo of two children with mobile devices, sitting on a couch“I realized that there were a lot of barriers and complex relationships involved in children’s media production... that creativity is not always fostered as much as it could be, and that children themselves are too often envisioned as passive consumers of media rather than as active producers and manipulators of media.”

Sara realized that uncovering these relationships would make a significant contribution to children’s media, and produce research that might lead to better informed policy decisions, while supporting independent children’s media creators, and highlighting the role of young people themselves in making and appropriating media.

Child-oriented digital media

She is quite interested in new risks and challenges associated with child-oriented digital media.

“Although children are generally excluded from participating in the public sphere (voting, public commentary, debates, etc.), the Internet offers users of all ages opportunities to collaborate in the creation of shared cultural artifacts and experiences. But while children’s use of information communication technologies (ICTs) has been the subject of numerous policy and legal debates in recent years, their emerging role as producers of digital content often slips under the regulatory radar,” she explains in a recent blog post.  

The role of information professionals  

Professor Grimes recognizes the complexities faced by libraries and information services as they incorporate games into their collections and services, in response to customers’ requests. Through after-school programs and other offerings, libraries are now promoting the use of games for learning. The role of information professionals has therefore become more complex, as they are asked difficult questions about ratings systems, censorship issues, age appropriateness, and other issues brought on by gaming in libraries.

Courses taught by Professor Grimes

INF2141H  Children's Cultural Texts & Artifacts
INF1240H  Research Methods
  Information Workshop — Section 0102: Children's Digital Games

Professor Sara M. Grimes
Master of Information (MI) program at the iSchool
MI program -- Library & Information Science path