Preservice Teachers and Children's Literature: Implications for Teacher-Librarians

By de Groot, Joanne | Teacher Librarian, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Preservice Teachers and Children's Literature: Implications for Teacher-Librarians


de Groot, Joanne, Teacher Librarian


THIS ARTICLE IS A SUMMARY OF THE FINDINGS OF A SMALL RESEARCH PROJECT THAT WAS CONDUCTED IN THE WINTER OF 2006 TO INVESTIGATE PRESERVICE TEACHERS' ATTITUDES TOWARD CHILDREN'S LITERATURE BEFORE AND AFTER TAKING LIS 405: CANADIAN LITERATURE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES.

At the time of the study, the students in LIS 405 were in their third year of a collaborative bachelor of education program jointly offered by the University of Alberta and another Alberta college. LIS 405, a required course in this program, was offered online, and students accessed course materials, lectures, discussions, and other relevant documents through a dedicated WebCT site. Students were required to read and discuss a number of children's books and young adult books throughout the term, with the book discussions taking place online.

One of the purposes of the study was to investigate students" attitudes about the use of children's literature in the classroom. The students were asked about their reading habits and preferences, to determine whether this small group of preservice teachers would describe themselves as readers. It was important to try to understand what background experience with books and reading they brought to the course. As such, the research question that guided the study was, appropriately enough, "What background knowledge and attitudes about children's literature do preservice teachers bring to their education program?" The results of the research may provide insight into a small group of preservice teachers' attitudes about the use of children's literature in today's classrooms. The results may also indicate how teacher-librarians can provide support for preservice and inservice teachers in their use of children's literature in the classroom.

This report is presented in five sections. First, a brief review of the literature provides context for the study. The second section is a description of the methodology used to collect the data. Third, the results of the study are presented as they relate to the purpose of the study. The fourth section is a discussion of the findings in the context of the existing literature, and it includes recommendations based on these findings. Finally, directions for future research that stem from the study are explored.

CONTEXT

A review of the literature found a few studies about the use of children's literature and young adult literature in the classroom, but little research seems to have been done that specifically looked at preservice teachers. In several studies, in-service teachers stated their beliefs in the importance of incorporating these materials into classrooms (Bainbridge, Carbonaro, & Green, 2005; Bainbridge, Oberg, & Carbonaro, 2005; Gibbons, Dail, & Stallworth, 2006; Writer's Trust of Canada, 2002). However, another study revealed that in-service teachers do not always use children's books in their classrooms, regardless of how important they believe this to be (Pantaleo, 2002). The reasons for this contradiction are varied, but a few key themes emerged from a close reading of the literature.

First, teachers' views of curriculum connections play a role in how children's literature is used in the classroom. Teachers tended to select books on the basis of their fit with the curriculum (Bainbridge, Oberg, et al., 2005), but "they felt that many curriculum areas were not well represented in Canadian literature" (Bainbridge, Carbonaro, et al., 2005, p. 321). Based on the findings from these studies, it appears that teachers, both preservice and in-service, need to be given opportunities to discover children's literature and consider how to use it in their classrooms. Teacher education programs must continue to incorporate literature for children and young adults into their courses so that new teachers have a sense of the variety of literature available to them. Exposing preservice teachers to books, encouraging them to read critically, and giving them a chance to reflect on and talk about these materials should produce professionals who value and use children's literature with their students.

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