Academic journal article Journal of Children's Literature

Teaching Children's Literature in the 21st Century

Academic journal article Journal of Children's Literature

Teaching Children's Literature in the 21st Century

Article excerpt

IN 2011, A MASTER CLASS in Childrens Literature: Trends and Issues in an Evolving Field (Bedford & Albright, 2011) was published, and it highlighted the central goals of the Master Class in Teaching Children's Literature (a session held each year at NCTE)-"learning from our colleagues, the experts in our field, about how to include cutting-edge topics in our children's literature courses" (Bedford, 2011, p. xiv). Edited by April Bedford and Lettie Albright with contributions by CLA members who have organized this session in past years, this resource reflects the vast array of topics covered over the years by Master Class and addresses how they fit into contemporary contexts. The topics include relationships between children's literature and art, math, diversity, censorship, technology, and issues that ask us to consider the realities and the possibilities of children's literature courses.

The 2013 Master Class in Children's Literature session at NCTE in Boston continued the tradition of this highly successful annual session by focusing on children's literature courses and the resources and strategies that various instructors draw on to deliver them. Organized by Deanna Day, seven professors of children's literature and literacy passionately shared the courses that they have developed and currently instruct in universities across the United States. Each course has a unique focus, but they are woven together with the scholarly, theoretical, and pedagogical threads that create critical understandings of practice, theory, and the communities of learners that make up the tapestry of the children's and adolescent literature field. A glimpse of this tapestry is offered here as each instructor shares a brief description of his or her course to include select strategies that they believe help students engage with the literature and the courses in significant ways. A common thread links these courses: the goal of ensuring that students not only gain the expertise to select and use children's and adolescent literature in future classrooms but also experience both the personal and scholarly potential of these books.

Additionally, the voices of these educators serve to reflect a recent initiative of the Children's Literature Assembly: to make visible the strategic work being done in the field by those preparing teachers as well as to provide support for such educators. As a result of this initiative, information regarding children's literature courses, including the syllabi and handouts shared by the presenters during the 2013 Master Class session, may be found on the CLA website: http://www.childrensliteratureassembly.org.

The following sections reflect, through the voices of individual instructors, a wide array of children's and adolescent literature instruction-literacy courses with a children's literature component, critical readings of literature, "reading" the picture book, nonfiction, international children's literature, basic undergraduate children's literature courses, and multicultural children's and adolescent literature. Together, these children's literature scholars reveal a complexity of scholarship and pedagogy that is aligned with issues and mandates in contemporary educational settings.

Children's Literature as a Component of Literacy/Reading Courses

Seemi Aziz, University of Arizona

The transformative nature of using strong narratives within classroom settings can be the beginning of opening the world for students in the 21st century. I have used strong key texts from various genres of young adult and children's literature for precisely this reason in both graduate and undergraduate courses in literacy and reading. Coupled with powerful strategies, this literature invites meaningful interactions among students. Some of the assigned strategies are as follows:

* Paired text/close readings: I have used paired texts linked by themes such as death. For example, titles such as Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch (2011) from Germany, Harry & Hopper by Margaret Wild (2011) from Australia, and Lola and the Rent-a-Cat by Ceseli Jitta (2010) from Holland have led my students to consider how those of us in the United States perceive writing about death for children and how the same concept is presented within the children's literature of other countries. …

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