Hunger, violence, involuntary labor, sex trade and forced warriors are some of the social justice issues experienced by Katniss and other characters in The Hunger Games. Reading the trilogy in class can encourage students to become activists on these issues to help current victims of these problems.
Students can write to public officials, propose innovative solutions, and engage in a series of out-of-school literacy practices that they consider very powerful.
“Addressing issues of violence through popular literature is important..[as]students are desensitized to violence, and one goal of educators is to resensitize them so that they understand the reality of brutality and injustice,” writes author Amber Simmons.
In interviews, The Hunger Games author, Suzanne Collins, has said that the sociopolitical overtones of her work intentionally characterize current and past world events, including the use of hunger as a weapon to control populations.
In her own home district in Georgia, Simmons says 22.3% of children live in poverty, although she teaches a class that is predominantly middle class. Students who have not experienced need themselves can use the text as a reference when discussing hunger, its causes and consequences.
A local food bank, the Atlanta Community Food bank has devised a curriculum called Hunger 101 (www.acfb.org/projects/hunger_101) to educate students and engage them in supporting change in their communities.
Teachers can ask students to choose a project that addresses hunger, such as starting a food bank, volunteering for a local hunger walk, creating a home or school garden, reducing food waste, etc.
The Hunger Games also can help educate students about involuntary labor. In the book, people in many districts of Panem are forced to work to provide food, energy or other materials so that citizens in the capitol can continue to live in luxury. Simmons says there are many examples of involuntary labor around the world, from child labor to children who are used as instruments of war to women, who are forced into sex trades.
Reading The Hunger Games, she says, can help students connect with many social injustices on a personal and emotional level and inspire them to become activists.
“Class on Fire Using the Hunger Games Trilogy to Encourage Social Action,” by Amber M. Simmons, Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, Sept. 2012, pp. 22-34.