When I Was a Child: Children's Interpretations of First Communion

By Susan Ridgely Bales | Go to book overview

two
drawing, playing, listening
A Method for Studying Children’s Interpretations

“Is that you?” I asked, pointing to the girl Cara has just drawn. “Umm-humm,” she replied. “I couldn’t really make a ponytail; that’s why I have my hair like that. But I still have my Communion dress—it was white.” Cara, an eight-year-old African American girl, and I talked as we sat on the floor in the vestibule of Holy Cross’s Activity Center. Although it seemed to me like a strange place for an interview, Cara decided that she wanted to talk there stretched out on the floor with the occasional latecomers stepping over us on their way to Faith Formation classes, which Holy Cross held in that building. So, on the white linoleum floor, we spread out the white construction paper, on which I asked her to “draw me a picture of First Communion.” Preparing for our conversation, Cara found a comfortable position in which to sit, and I placed the box of sixty-four crayons in front of her. As she picked the appropriate colors for her drawing, I put the tape recorder that would record our conversation about a foot behind her right elbow in an effort to make sure that at least its physical presence would not distract her.

Before I began this research I had hoped that Cara might understand this situation as two friends coloring together and talking freely about First Communion, albeit with a microphone off to one side. As I began my work with the communicants, I still clung to the notion that children were completely trusting and accepting, even though my life experiences and my knowledge of childhood studies told me otherwise. As I spent time listening to the children and their fellow parishioners, I worked to create a methodology that would help my consultants express themselves as fully as possible. I soon realized that I would have to do more to get the children to share their thoughts with me than sit with them on the floor and

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