Introduces the forms, themes, history, and uses of literature written for children ages three to twelve. Students learn to evaluate and select literature critically and understand its use in preschool, elementary, and middle school classrooms. Genres to be studied include traditional fiction/folktales, contemporary realistic fiction, picture books, fantasy/science fiction, historical fiction, biography, nonfiction, and poetry/verse.
Goals, Topics, and Objectives
Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:
- Introduction to literary terms and methods of discussing literature.
- The social construction of childhood and the history of children's literature.
- Traditional literature: folk tales, myths, legends, fables, and fairy tales.
- Picture books.
- Poetry and verse.
- Contemporary realism.
- Fantasy / science fiction.
- Historical fiction.
- Nonfiction: biography / autobiography, history, travel, and science.
Students should be able to accomplish the following:
- Formulate an interpretive thesis (as opposed to one which merely reports something factual about a literary text).
- Compose an essay which either
- analyzes a literary text, for example by focusing on literary elements such as theme, character, setting, point of view, plot, imagery, metaphor, symbolism, etc., or
- analyzes the characteristic themes, features, and / or techniques of a given writer's works, or
- analyzes more than one literary text by comparing and contrasting works by more than one children's writer.
Identify some of the key literary terms that are essential to an introductory-level understanding of children’s literature.
Estimate the reading level of a given text by considering the appropriateness of the content and the complexity of the language.
Explain a few of the key ways in which children’s writers have attempted to balance didacticism and pleasure.
Explain the crucial importance and /or distinctive achievement of some key writers in the history of children's literature.
Identify and analyze principal works and passages reflecting some of the pivotal topics in children's literature.
Explain the ways in which a children’s book may be censored and / or explain some of the common arguments for and against the censorship of children’s books.
Locate and employ professional reviews and / or literary criticism about children's literature.
Assessment and Requirements
Assessment may include (but need not be limited to) quizzes, class participation, essays, and exams. But assessment must include a minimum of 2,000 words of formal literary analysis.
- Students will write at least one out-of-class essay of literary analysis that is at least 1,200 words in length.
- Students will take at least one written exam which requires them to analyze literature; whether a single essay or multiple shorter responses, this expository component will count for at least half of the credit for that exam.
Students will read substantial or representative selections from the works of at least five writers recognized as having made important contributions to the field of children’s literature.
Students will read a substantial or representative selection of literary texts that explore the topics of peer relations, family relations, personal loss (through death, divorce, etc.), overcoming obstacles, and social difference (race / ethnicity, class, gender, and disability).
Students will regularly engage in thoughtful discussion of the assigned readings.
Students will study (through assigned readings and / or classroom discussion) the cultural and historical contexts from which the literature emerges.
Students will study concepts that are essential to an introductory-level understanding of children’s literature, such as character, setting, perspective, metaphor, tone, theme, style, structure, layout (in picture books), rhyme, rhythm, image, censorship, human development (cognitive and/or moral), picture book, chapter book, realistic fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, verse, nursery rhyme, folktale, fairytale, fable, myth, and didacticism.
Students should learn appropriate biographical information about assigned writers when such information could be helpful in understanding the literature.
Students should take quizzes on assigned readings.
Students should keep a journal in which they record their responses to assigned readings and class discussions.
Students should learn to place the major assigned writers and texts on an historical timeline.
Students should satisfactorily read at least one poem or passage aloud, either in class or in the instructor’s office.
Instructors should welcome and support the diverse identities, backgrounds, and academic experience of our students as essential foundations for college community.