Literature in the Early Years

By Williams, Leanne; Lawson, Sarah | Practically Primary, June 2011 | Go to article overview
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Literature in the Early Years

Williams, Leanne, Lawson, Sarah, Practically Primary

"Good children's literature appeals not only to the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child" Anon

Literature in the Australian Curriculum English is deined as understanding, appreciating, analysing and creating literature.

In the early years young children become increasingly aware of written language and quickly learn that symbols and patterns have meaning. They begin to show an interest in recording their ideas, theories and understandings. Whether it is through painting, drawing, dance, writing or dramatic play young children's focus becomes making sense of their world.

Children's desire to engage with literature and create their own literature also increases. In Belonging, Being and Becoming; The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia one of the desired outcomes is for children to become effective communicators. Some of the key components of this outcome include that:

* Children engage with a range of texts and gain meaning from these texts

* Children express ideas and make meaning using a range of media

In Early Childhood and early primary settings picture books form the foundation of many literacy experiences. The importance of providing appropriate high quality literature in a classroom becomes paramount. An excellent children's book can become the catalyst for a range of learning outcomes.

Each month The Little Big Book Club selects and recommends three books to read with children. This ongoing project helps to inform parents and early childhood professionals of appropriate and high quality books to read with children at different ages and stages. The selections are supported by lesson plans and downloadable activity sheets that can be accessed via our free website.

Responding To and Examining Literature

While the concept of responding to and examining literature is not uncommon in early childhood, it does not always have to follow the familiar format of question and answer. Young children in particular are eager to use a range of mediums to express their understandings. Puppetry, dramatic play and song allow children to fully engage with literature.

In February, The Little Big Book Club featured Blossom Possum by Gina Newton & Kilmeny Niland for children aged 4 & 5 years. This book provides an excellent springboard for encouraging young children to respond to literature in a variety of ways.

Once you have read the story of Blossom Possum to the children try the following:

* Talk about the subtitle The sky is falling down under. Do any of the children know what it means? Where is down under?

* Blossom Possum is based on the traditional tale Henny Penny. You can read or retell this story to the children and then compare and contrast the two stories. For children in the early years of school they could draw and label pictures of the characters in each story.

* What do the children notice about all the animals' names? Rhyming and the recognition of rhyme are key aspects in developing phonemic awareness in young children.

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