Chapter 1 What*s So Special About Literature?

Chapter 1
What’s So Special
About Literature?
Growing Up With Literature, 6e
By: Walter E. Sawyer
• “Children’s literature is good quality
trade books for children
o from birth to adolescence,
o covering topics of relevance and interests to
children of those ages,
o through prose and poetry, fiction and
• Topic:
o experiences of childhood set in the past, present, or future
(e.g., enjoying birthday parties, anticipating adulthood,
getting a new pet, enduring siblings, and dealing with
family situations);
o things that are of interest to children (e.g., dinosaurs,
Egyptian mummies, world records)
• Manner:
o stories are told in a forthright, humorous, or suspenseful
manner (stories that are told in nostalgic or overly
sentimental terms are inappropriate)
“The best children’s books offer readers enjoyment as
well as memorable characters and situations and
valuable insights into the human condition.”
Quality of writing:
• originality and importance of ideas
• imaginative use of language
• beauty of literary and artistic style
Values of Literature to
The Personal Value
Imagination and inspiration
vicarious experience
understanding and empathy
cultural heritage
moral reasoning
literary and artistic preferences
Values of Literature to
The Academic Value
improving reading skills
developing writing voice and style
learning content-area knowledge
promoting art appreciation
Current Trends in
Children’s Literature
Increased numbers of adults reading children’s books, primarily
because of the Harry Potter phenomenon.
Increasing dominance of illustration in children’s books. Readers are
becoming more visually oriented as they spend more time watching
television and playing video games and spend less time reading.
Fewer full-length novels and more short, high-interest, low-readinglevel novels begins written for 10- to 14-year-olds.
Rapid growth of technology in all areas of publishing. As schools
adopt computerized management reading programs, reading and
books become less a means to enjoyment and discovering new
information and more a matter of gaining points.
An increase in the publication of bilingual books to accommodate
the rapid increase in second language learner students.
Increased merchandising of book-related paraphernalia, such as
games, craft kits, cookbooks, dolls, and doll accessories.
• Adults who work with young
children must foster a relationship
with literature in their own lives.
• A person cannot teach children
to love reading and literature
without possessing that same love.
• Children are perceptive; they can
often spot false enthusiasm.
An Early Start
When children come to school already
reading or with a deep interest in
reading, certain critical facts can often
be found:
• They usually had books at home.
• They observed adults reading.
• They were read to by adults.
• They had someone to talk to about
books, reading, and literature.
Television and Literature
• The television program is in control.
• The presentation proceeds at a predetermined pace
• Little or no interaction with the viewer.
One can set one’s own pace.
The voice can give lines different emotions.
The illustrations can be studied, discussed, and touched.
Anything in the book can be reread, lingered over, or
returned to.
o Information transfer can be more effective than with television programs
where the information is gone when the program is over.
What effect does viewing television
violence have on children?
Brain research has shown that regular viewing of
television violence is related to:
• attention problems
• aggressive behavior
• acceptance of violence as a problem solving tool,
and as a regular part of life
• unrealistically heightened fear of violence to
The Value of Literature
• Books can help to inform and explain much about the
natural world that children see around them.
• Books may be read prior to an experience to prepare
children for the new learning.
• They may also be read after the experience to clarify
misunderstandings, to provide still more information, or
to reinforce the learning.
• Reading is a springboard to further discussion.
• Children can also learn about other cultures through
• Young children frequently share the reading with an
adult, providing an opportunity to discuss the story and
to clarify concerns or questions
The Value of Literature
• Helps children make sense of the world.
• Often helps children better able to achieve an
accurate understanding of something (example,
the beach).
• Books enable children to have more meaningful
• Allows time to reflect on experiences, resulting in
deeper learning and understanding.
• Books keep introducing new and fascinating topics.
They encourage children to ask more questions
and to seek more answers.
• Through books, children can identify with others like
• They can see how others deal with similar problems.
• Children can be encouraged to talk about difficult
• Helps children define their feelings and develop a
sense of self.
• Reading about others who are attempting to make
sense of similar situations can bring hope.
Tolerance of Others
• Literature can help children understand how they fit
in and how important it is to relate to others.
• Through literature, children can grow up
appreciating many different people and cultures.
• This leads to the development of empathetic
relationships and a reduction in bias.
The Human Connection
• There is a personal interaction
between the child and reader.
• The sound and rhythm of language
can be slowed down, sped up, made
louder, or made to express emotions.
• The illustrations and photographs in the
book can be touched, studied,
discussed, and returned to as the story
goes along.
Appropriate Practices
• Knowledge of child development and learning
o This knowledge helps adults to develop materials
and plan activities that will be healthy,
engaging, and challenging to children.
• Capabilities and interests of children
o This is necessary in order to adapt and respond
to individual children.
• Cultural environment
o Enables adults to develop meaningful learning
experiences that are also respectful of the social
and cultural environments of the children.
What does “reading” really
• Reading is the gaining of meaning from a written text.
• In this view, children begin the process of learning to
read from the moment of birth.
• Reading is intertwined with other language modes
(i.e., oral language, listening, writing) in such a way
that it does not normally exist as a single skill.
• Children learn to read by reading, even if an adult
does some or most of the reading for them at the
initial stages.
• The reader brings background experiences to the
reading that influences the understanding the reader
has of the text.
Characteristics of a Holistic
A holistic approach assumes that children are developing
literacy since the moment of birth, no single approach to
literacy is the “right” one, caregivers and parents are
important participants in children’s literacy development,
and reading is a tool for making sense of the world. A
holistic approach is characterized as one which…
• Uses whole texts
• Uses children’s literature as a key component to literacy
• Shared reading, guided reading, repeated readings,
and re-creating stories in play
• Is child centered
• Values parent involvement
Literacy Curriculum
Research identifies three key aspects of a literate
• Support for the success of the learner.
o This means children should have an environment with a variety of
printed materials, story times, centers, field trips, and community
• A focus on learning language.
o Children must be invited to read and write. Literature sharing is a
key tool to be used for this purpose.
• Opportunities to explore language.
o With an abundance of reading and writing opportunities
available, children will be able to develop different strategies for
different situations. This will provide them with more opportunities
to make language decisions.
Reading Skills
• Semantics – refers to the meanings that words
o Understanding the meanings of words is critical
to true reading.
• Syntax – refers to the word order
• Pragmatics – refers to the practical functions of
o Things such as tone of voice and the degree of
Reading Skills (cont.)
Awareness of early literacy skills:
Phonological awareness
Alphabet knowledge
Print awareness
Realistic Expectations
• The key problems with the increased use of
standardized tests:
o First, competency tests can move one’s thinking away from the fact that
all children have individual differences. By setting a uniform standard, the
tests demand that schools attempt to fit all students into the same mold.
o Secondly, the tests tend to force the curriculum downward so that
children will be sure to be ready when it is time to take the tests. Younger
and younger children, therefore, are presented more and more learning
that was previously delayed until they were older.
o They discriminate against those from multicultural and lower
socioeconomic backgrounds and tend to test only what can be
o Important characteristics such as problem solving and excitement about
reading are ignored.
o Finally, the tests have encouraged more retentions, failures,
developmental kindergartens, and delays of entering schools.
Authors and Illustrators
• Learning about the personal life and thoughts of an
author or illustrator can be a powerful motivation
for reading that author’s book.
• If resources are available, a day with an author can
be a tremendously rewarding experience for
children and adults alike.
• “Author studies” make students realize they are real
people and this is their job.
Literature derives its value from three things:
• First, it informs and excites children about the world
in which they live.
• Second, it contributes to developing a positive selfimage and the acceptance of others.
• Finally, literature serves to help children connect to
both the people sharing a story with them and the
people within the story.

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