Much of what we teach in schools is concerned with facts. Literature is concerned with feelings and quality of life, but Literature is also a rich engaging art form which can teach concepts and skills throughout all curricular areas.
For teacher librarians it is the reconceptualisation of the audience for children’s literature, and the extraordinary growth, great variety, and growing richness evident in the literary works intended to have children as their primary audience.
Meaning of Childhood?
Literature is a growing thing, reflecting the social realisms of a developing and increasingly demanding world. More recently the impact of technology has enhanced the access to a rich literary experience, encouraging a more positive attitude to the significant opportunities new technologies offer for reshaping the way in which narrative for children is conceived and presented, so that it continues its role of constructing meaning in their lives.
- Do you have a vision for the future of children’s literature? Who will be the drivers of change?
Children’s literature today encompasses a vast range of genre, form and media which takes the reader on an imaginative excursion, reflecting, capturing, finding meaning and even creating meaning, in relation to the world we live in. Works of children’s literature are therefore changing, in tune with what our world is and is becoming. The reader’s relationship to text and the texts themselves have also been clearly expanded, and new opportunities such as phone and tablet apps exist in children’s literature to engage with the powerful images and dramatic forms of multimedia and the Internet. Literature circles, book clubs, and a range of Web.2 technologies encourage a deeper social engagement with literature thereby allowing readers to enjoy and appreciate a book more fully.
What are the key elements for a definition of children’s literature? Note them down in dot points on your blog.
- Is distinguished by its audience, with childhood being a legally defined period from birth to eighteen years.
- Encompasses a vast range of genre, form and media.
- Is finding and creating meaning in relation to the world we live in.
- Is changing in tune with what our world is, and is becoming.
- Uses new opportunities like phone and tablet apps to engage with the powerful images and dramatic forms of multimedia and the Internet.
- A great variety and growing richness, evident in the literary works intended to have children as their primary audience.
- Aids the development of cognition when human minds rely on stories and on story architecture as the primary roadmap for understanding, making sense of, remembering, and planning our lives.
- Is engaging in a great deal of interesting and comprehensible reading.
- Can provide an interpretation of the world that children need for developing cultural literacy.
- Also helps to develop a sense of national identity and extends children’s cultural boundaries.
- Explores possibilities and allows us to ask ‘what if’ questions, develops children’s imagination and helps them consider nature, people, experiences and ideas in new ways.
I really like this description of reading as the value of literature in providing knowledge and understanding:
Experiences children have with literature gives them new perspectives, making it possible to feel and live connected to the lives of others. Good writing can transport the reader to other times, in other places where they can vicariously experience historical events, adopt a character’s persona, enjoy adventures, excitement and sometimes struggle with hardships. Such experiences can bring us closer to characters of every nationality and be a potent weapon in the fight against xenophobia. Given the chance to walk in the footsteps of others, readers can develop empathy and understanding. Reading gets us out of our own time and place and out of ourselves but in the end it will return us to ourselves, a little bit different, a little changed by the experience (ETL402 Module 1, 2014).
Interestingly, teacher librarians and teachers alike encounter the reality that in general, motivation for reading tends to decline over the primary school years for the population as a whole, and reading for its own sake, and children’s perceptions of themselves as readers, declines as they get older.
Zipes (2009, p. 17) is also concerned that the digital technologies will dull children’s senses so that they are no longer capable of being reflective or engaging in prolonged reading events, and that the dominance of design will cause images to become more appealing than words.
Reflection: Response to Zipe.
(Critics) are not recognising or do not want to recognise that the former traditional approaches to alphabetic literacy through reading print are not meeting the needs of young people who read texts much differently than the generations of teachers and educators who are teaching them. (p. 42)
Do you agree with Zipe’s comment? Consider the implications for your role as a teacher librarian?
- Students prefer graphic novels to copious printed texts. Easier to read and the message is conveyed through illustrations rather than print. Graphic novels are in high demand in our secondary college and teacher librarians have recognised their appeal and value and select more for the library collection.
- Different genres have emerged such as Dystopian, Fantasy and Horror texts that appeal more to secondary students and extend their areas of interest from their online or electronic games.
- Students would rather read shorter fast-paced stories than voluminous novels containing dense text, and prefer well known authors of teenage books that write action packed spy thrillers such as James Whelan, or read Dystopian series like the Hunger Games or Twilight.
- E-books are very popular and don’t take up physical space in the library and are easily accessed by students at home or on holiday. Developing an E-library is an important component of all libraries now, but especially at school where they are often used as curricular texts.
- Magazines especially those appealing to male students usually feature particular sports, hobbies or activities that students like to read. They are more popular in school libraries now rather than non-fiction texts. Students consider them’ light reading’ and engaging.
Recent research in England suggests that opportunities for children’s and young people’s reading for pleasure may have been curtailed as a result of other curriculum imperatives. Under pressure to raise standards, there has been a strong emphasis on meeting objectives and managing the curriculum, but reasons for reading in the first place appear to have been neglected. In particular, little attention has been paid, either in research or policy documentation, to why literature still has a clear role to play in English education (Module 1, 2014).
Charles Sturt University, School of Information Sciences. (2014) ETL402 Module 1, Overview & Introduction to Children’s Literature. Wagga Wagga: N.S.W.
Zipes, J. (2009). Misreading children and the fate of the book in Relentless progress the reconfiguration of children’s literature, fairy tales, and storytelling. London: Routledge.