Issues in the Teaching and Learning of Children's Literature in Malaysia

By Cheng, Karen Kow Yip | K@ta, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Issues in the Teaching and Learning of Children's Literature in Malaysia


Cheng, Karen Kow Yip, K@ta


Abstract: The Curriculum Development Centre of Malaysia implemented a Children's Contemporary Literature Programme to promote reading among pupils in year 4, 5 and 6 in schools. This paper explores some issues in the teaching and learning of children's literature in Malaysia. It also looks at the role of the teacher as well as the functions of children's literature. Further the English Language textbook and its role with reference to the teaching and learning of literature is analysed in this paper.

Key words: children, literature, reading, testing, teaching, textbook, learning, resources, language, meaning

The Children's Contemporary Literature Programme implemented by the Curriculum Development Centre of Malaysia aims to promote reading. In a research carried out by Kow (2006) on negation in children's literature, she found that there exists an innate tension between what an adult conceives to be children's literature and what the child conceives literature to be. The questions that beg answers are whether children are supposed to derive fun from reading a book or are they to learn from it?

This paper aims to study the following issues with special reference to Children's Contemporary Literature:

* What are some of the issues in the teaching and learning of literature?

* What is the function of children's literature?

* What is the role of the teacher?

* What is the role of the English Language textbook?

Lifelong reading is what the Children's Contemporary Literature programme hopes to promote. Kow (2002) points out that 'The objective of the programme is to create the willing, eager reader who not only masters the skills of literacy but also applies this mastery to achieve lifelong learning. Beyond that the skilled reader is the child who loves to read and the child who can't stop reading'. Hence this paper takes the reader on a journey to discover the answer to the question: 'Is Contemporary Literature a joy to pupils and teachers or is it an albatross?'

This paper serves as a sharing of experience of the issues in the teaching and learning of Literature with a focus in Malaysia. Perhaps other countries may share a similar experience. It is hoped therefore that this paper may pose as a learning experience in that what is good can be replicated and vice versa.

THE FUNCTION OF CHILDREN'S LITERATURE

Can one sentence truly define children's literature? What exactly is children's literature? The Curriculum Development Centre (2006) defines children's literature as: 'The material created for and widely read, viewed and heard by children, that has an imaginative element."

Children's literature is for children, be it read, viewed or heard. However, these stories are written by adults. Hence at the very onset, then, there exists a tension between what an adult conceives to be children's literature and what the child conceives literature to be. On the one hand, children want to derive fun from reading a book. On the other hand, adults view the functionality of books as one where there is a need for children's books to teach good moral values.

Kow (2002, p. 48) noted that children's books are multifunctional. They help children to expand their imagination and to acquire literacy. Children's literature helps children to cope with problems be they social, cultural, racial or problems that crop up in dealing with life in the real world. It also helps to inculcate specific social attitudes that are deemed to be acceptable in their community.

These ties in with the learning objectives outlined by the Curriculum Development Centre for the literature component which are as follows:

* To instil and inculcate the reading habit among pupils.

* To enrich pupils' vocabulary and language content.

* To enhance pupils' thinking skills.

* To promote cultural understanding in the Malaysian context.

* To improve English language proficiency of pupils. …

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