Chapter 1: Knowing Children’s Literature
CHAPTER SUMMARY AND OUTLINE
Children’s literature differs from that of adults in that the content is limited by the experience and understanding of children. Children’s books are centered on children; intrinsic personal values are the bases for much of children’s literature. Among other values, books provide enjoyment, give vicarious experiences, and develop insight into human behavior. Books also offer educational values such as language development and the development of a sense of story. Thoughtful evaluation of children’s literature requires an understanding of criteria for many genres of books. This chapter focuses on evaluating the literary elements of plot, setting, theme, characterization, style, point of view, illustration, and format. We include guidelines for evaluating children’s fiction and multicultural literature. We also discuss the numerous awards for children’s literature; in the United States, the most prestigious prizes are the Newbery and Caldecott Awards.
I. CHILDREN’S LITERATURE DEFINED
G. Evaluating Literature through a Multicultural Lens
H. Additional Considerations
I. Comparison with Other Books
IV. CLASSICS IN CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
V. THE BOOK AWARDS
A. The Newbery and Caldecott Medals
B. International Book Awards
C. Lifetime Contribution Awards
ASSISTING STUDENT LEARNING
INTRODUCTION: CHILDREN’S LITERATURE DEFINED
Distinguish between literature for children and literature for adults.
VALUING LITERATURE FOR CHILDREN
Find six personal values that literature offers children.
Note at least one specific research study that supports the importance of literature for each of these areas of children’s learning: language development, reading, writing.
EVALUATING CHILDREN’S FICTION
Know the chart, “Guidelines: Evaluating Children’s Fiction.”
Be able to apply the “Guidelines for Evaluating Multicultural Literature.”
CLASSICS IN CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
Skim the section on classics of children’s literature.
THE BOOK AWARDS
Note the distinguishing features of the Newbery and Caldecott Awards.
Determine the value of giving awards for children’s books.
Skim the list of selection aids in Appendix B.
literature of diversity
omniscient point of view
point of view
ORGANIZING THE TEXTUAL MATERIAL
1. COMBINING WITH OTHER CHAPTERS
This chapter provides a powerful introduction to the study of children’s literature in the elementary school. For this reason it stands alone as the important beginning chapter.
The chart “Guidelines: Evaluating Children’s Fiction” would be a useful reference to compare to each of the genre chapters. Encourage students to review the sections on personal and educational values before reading Chapter 13.
2. PLANNING FOR SPECIAL AUDIENCES
Differing audiences will read the book; make special emphases depending upon the makeup of your student group. Undergraduate elementary education students will react to books remembered from their childhood due to the select combination of old and new books mentioned in the chapter. Encourage undergraduates to note the read-aloud books listed on the end pages of the textbook and the award-winning books listed in Appendix A of the textbook. They will feel more confident in looking for children’s books in libraries if they have a sound list for guidance.
Point out to graduate students who are teachers or media specialists the up-to-date research studies noted throughout the chapter. Lead administrators, counselors, and English majors to an understanding of the place of literature in the school curriculum.
INTRODUCING THE CHAPTER
A poem is a fine introduction to a course in children’s literature, and David McCord’s “Books Fall Open” is very appropriate for this first chapter. It is found in several sources; one attractive anthology that contains it is Good Books, Good Times!, with poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and pictures by Harvey Stevenson (HarperCollins, 1990). George Ella Lyon’s poetic text for Book, illustrated by Peter Catalanoto (DK Ink, 1999), celebrates the treasures to be found in books.
Two picture storybooks that exemplify the personal values that are an important part of this chapter on valuing literature for children are Patricia Polacco’s The Bee Tree (Philomel, 1993) and Marie Bradby’s More than Anything Else, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet (Orchard, 1995). Using one of these as an introduction to the chapter could enable the opening class discussion to focus on the values of children’s books.
TEACHING WITH THE TEXTBOOK
1. DEFINING CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
Select a pair of books that have strong contrasts concerning whether they are truly written as children’s literature. Read both books aloud. Following are examples of pairs:
Munsch, Robert N. Love You Forever. Illustrated by Sheila McGraw. Firefly Books, 1989.
Seuss, Dr. Oh the Places You’ll Go! Random House, 1990.
Seuss, Dr. Horton Hatches the Egg. Random House, 1940.
Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. HarperCollins, 1988.
Yorinks, Arthur. The Miami Giant. Illustrated by Maurice Sendak. HarperCollins, 1995.
Lead a discussion about whether the books are bona fide examples of literature for children. Ask questions such as: What are some elements of the books that are definitely childlike? That are decidedly childish? What is the difference between the two elements? What are some factors that will appeal to children? In what ways is either book a parody of childhood? Are there elements within either book that are beyond the sophistication level of children? How can we judge oversophistication? What is your opinion about the child appeal of each book now that you have heard this discussion?
Following the discussion ask students as a group to compose a written statement defining literature for children. Let them develop their ideas on the chalkboard until a modicum of agreement is reached.
Reflecting on Methodology: Aid students in noticing the methodology that you used during this activity. If necessary, point out that you began with carefully selected books, presented the books as a total group endeavor, led a discussion with questions that were designed to raise their level of thinking, and culminated the activity by having them come to agreement in written form regarding a difficult-to-pinpoint topic. Encourage students to use methodology such as this with elementary school children.
2. RECALLING PERSONAL VALUES OF BOOKS
Invite students to reflect on their childhood reading by recalling and listing books that they read or heard as children. Many will find this difficult and will remember only a few titles. Give about 5 to 7 minutes for listing the books, prompting recollections by suggesting books read aloud by teachers, library experiences, projects with birthday and holiday gift books, summer reading programs, overnight or day camp reading, and bedtime stories. When students have exhausted their memories, ask them to go over the lists and determine what values the books had for them—especially since they remembered these books for at least eight or more years. List the personal values noted in the textbook on the chalkboard: provides enjoyment, reinforces narrative as a way of thinking, develops the imagination, offers vicarious experiences, develops insight into human behavior, presents the universality of experience. Have students discuss which of the personal values seems to occur most frequently. If “provides enjoyment” captures the greatest frequency, discuss the value of providing opportunities for children to have enjoyable experiences that can be recalled after a decade has passed. Invite all students to contribute to this discussion even if they were unable to recall many books.
Reflecting on Methodology: This sharing of ideas about the values of children’s literature offers a personalized beginning for the course. Many discussions will ensue, and the ice will have been broken through these childhood recollections. Encourage students to share their feelings about this course at this time.
3. CONTRASTING LITERARY QUALITIES
Read two short books to the students, and ask them to contrast the literary aspects. For this introductory session choose two books that are decidedly unequal in quality. Good books that have well-developed literary qualities are:
Henkes, Kevin. Julius, the Baby of the World. Greenwillow, 1990.
Lionni, Leo. An Extraordinary Egg. Knopf, 1994.
Osborne, Mary Pope. Kate and the Beanstalk. Illustrated by Giselle Potter. Atheneum/ Anne Schwartz, 2001.
Steig, William. Pete’s a Pizza. HarperCollins/Michael di Capua Books, 1998.
Stuve-Bodeen. Stephanie. Elizabeti’s Doll. Illustrated by Christy Hale. Lee & Low Books, 1998.
Winter, Jonah. Fridah. Illustrated by Ana Juan. Scholastic/ Arthur A Levine, 2003.
A poor-quality book can readily be found among the mass market books on grocery and discount store shelves. As students point out differences between the two books, list the items on the chalkboard. When several comments have been listed, have students categorize these according to the elements of plot, setting, theme, character, style, and point of view. Emphasize the fact that even at the beginning of a literature course we are aware of literary elements and can react to them, though perhaps not always with the precise terminology. The response to what is good is learned through reading and comparing.
4. EVALUATING WITH GUIDELINES
Divide the class into groups of 4 to 6 students. Have each group review the chart “Guidelines: Evaluating Children’s Fiction” on page 14 in the textbook. Make it clear that there are additional criteria that should be used for evaluating other genres and that these will be discussed in detail in subsequent chapters. At this point you are asking students to consider only the basic framework of a well-written story for children.
Give each group a short picture storybook that has a well-developed plot (as opposed to a mood or concept book). Following are examples of books that work well for this assignment:
Best, Cari. Three Cheers for Catherine the Great. Illustrated by Giselle Potter. DK Ink, 1999.
Cronin, Doreen. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin. Simon & Schuster, 2001.
Flournoy, Valerie. The Patchwork Quilt. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Dial, 1985.
Mathers, Petra. Lottie’s New Friend. Atheneum, 1999.
Mollel, Tololwa. My Rows and Piles of Coins. Illustrated by E. B. Lewis. Clarion, 1999.
Silverman, Erica. Don’t Fidget a Feather. Illustrated by S. D. Schindler. Macmillan, 1994.
Have one student read the book aloud to the small group. Each group should use the chart in the textbook “Guidelines: Evaluating Children’s Fiction” to determine the quality of the book as they perceive it. Direct the group members to write a concise evaluation statement about the book using specific points from the “Guidelines.” Share these statements orally, or post them in a “Critics Corner” of the classroom for others to read.
Reflecting on Methodology: Discuss the following points with students and encourage them to recall their own literary interactions during the time they participated in this activity.
the use of specific criteria
the requirement of staying with valuative commentary rather than story summary
the necessity of making a literary judgment
the precision exacted in a written statement
How are all contained within this activity?
Evaluation: Have students write a self-evaluation about their ability to participate in the literary aspects of this discussion. Ask each student to begin a portfolio and to keep items of this nature that will be helpful in determining a qualitative evaluation for the course. You may want to read of some varying ways of evaluating children’s growth in reading through informal, context-based assessments in Context-Responsive Approaches to Assessing Children’s Language, edited by Jessie A. Roderick (NCTE, 1991).
5. EVALUATING NEWBERY AWARD BOOKS
Pre-class Assignment: Have students read a Newbery Award winner or honor book and evaluate the book according to the chart on page 14 of the textbook, “Guidelines: Evaluating Children’s Fiction.” Instruct them to prepare a brief oral summary of the story (you may want to impose a time limit) and be able to point out literary elements that seem to be especially pertinent to the book. If there is time, students would benefit from reading the acceptance speech or critical commentaries regarding the Newbery Award book from Kingman’s three volumes, Newbery and Caldecott Medal Books: 1956–1965, 1966–1975, and 1976–1985 listed in Appendix B of the textbook, or from the July/August volume of the Horn Book Magazine, which contains the award speeches.
In-Class Activity: Give the students opportunities to share their prepared materials and critiques in small groups of 4 to 6. Be sure that they observe the time limit and include both summaries and critiques in their book commentaries. When sharing is completed, discuss in the large group the elements that seemed to predominate. Was characterization highest? Plot? Setting? Encourage discussions of these elements so that students begin to renew their familiarity with the terminology and gain a sense of confidence about responding to books in critical ways.
BOOK CART BOOKS
Collect an assortment of children’s books and wheel them into your class on a book cart. Having books available to touch, see, and borrow is a motivating factor that prompts continued reading by students. Prepare a small file box with 3 x 5 cards that can be used as an honor system for checking out books. Have students write their name and the book title on a card and remove the card when the book is returned. When this technique has been used with children’s literature classes, book losses have been minimal. Choose more books than you have students so that students will be able to browse through several books on the cart. Use 7 to 10 minutes of class time to highlight the books.
For this chapter’s session, select recent books that have won acclaim through awards and good reception. The following list offers highly lauded books that meet many of the criteria discussed in the chapter.
ONLY THE BEST: 1998–2003 Aliki. William Shakespeare and the Globe. HarperCollins, 1999
Almond, David. Kit’s Wilderness. Delacorte, 2000.
Almond, David. Skellig. Delacorte, 1999.
Avi. Crispin: The Cross of Lead. Hyperion, 2003.
Banks, Kate. And If the Moon Could Talk. Illustrated by Georg Hallensleben Farrar. Straus & Giroux, 1998.
Bauer, Joan. Stand Tall. Putnam, 2003.
Best, Cari. Three Cheers for Catherine the Great! Illustrated by Giselle Potter. DK Ink, 1999.
Billingsley, Franny. The Folk Keeper. Atheneum, 1999.
Steig, William. Pete’s a Pizza. HarperCollins/Michael diCapua Books, 1998.
Stuve-Bodeen, Stephanie. Elizabeti’s Doll. Illustrated by Christy Hale. Lee & Low Books, 1998.
Testa, Maria. Becoming Joe DiMaggio. Illustrated by Scott Hunt. Candlewick, 2003.
Thayer, Ernest Lawrence. Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888. Illustrated by Christopher Bing. Handprint, 2001.
Woodson, Jacqueline. The Other Side. Illustrated by E. B. Lewis. Putnam, 2002.
Yolen, Jane. How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? Illustrated by Marc Teague. Scholastic/Blue Sky Press, 2001.
EXTENDING LEARNING THROUGH AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS
Picture Books: Elements of Illustration and Story. PK Pictures Producers, 1987. Videocassette. 25 min. Color. Betsy Hearne discusses factors to be considered in evaluating picture books for children by comparing two versions of one book that was published in a revised form. Several books are used for giving examples of items to be evaluated.
What’s a Good Book?: Selecting Books for Children. Weston Woods, 1984. 16mm film/videocassette. 27 min. Color. Interviews with librarians, professors of children’s literature, and teachers seek to define the elements that characterize a quality book for children.
How to Spend Quality Reading Time with Your Child in Just 15 Minutes a Day. Televisionaires Video Prods., dist. by Instructional Video, 1999. Videocassette. 35 min. Color. Teacher and parent Janice Dobson provides tips for reading to young children and analyzes a book for its appeal to preschoolers.
Reading Rainbow PBS Television Series hosted by Levar Burton. Nebraska Educational Telecommunications; http://gpn.unl.edu/rainbow/. Web site includes program listings, resources for teachers and parents, and activities for children.
Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers. Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association, Inc., 2002. www.ReadingRockets.org. A five-part video series that focuses on early reading programs, parental involvement, and includes segments on children’s authors.
WEB LINKS LISTED IN STUDENT STUDY GUIDE
Go to www.mhhe.com/huck8e, Chapter 1, to link to these sites. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at The University of Wisconsin is a noncirculating examination study and research library for adults with an interest in children and young adult literature. CCBC-Net is an electronic forum to discuss books for children and young adults. The archives of past discussions provide a critical model for on line book discussion.
The Children’s Literature Web Guide This is one of the most extensive sites for those interested in Children’s literature. The site includes a list of online discussion groups.
Kay Vandergrift’s Children’s Literature Site Vandergrift includes her own thoughts on sharing books with children, a comprehensive reading list on topics in children’s literature, author and illustrator pages, and much more.
The Fairrosa Cyber Library for Children’s Literature
Database of Award-Winning Children’s Literature A searchable database of award winning children’s literature. This Web site will produce a list of award-winning books that meet the criteria you enter into the site’s comprehensive search form.
The Internet School Library Media Center Children’s Literature and Language A collection of links related to children’s literature. These links include curriculum resources.
Electronic Resources for Youth Services: Book Reviews A source for collections of on-line book reviews.
Carol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site
This site offers ways of incorporating children’s literature into the curriculum, from book reviews and professional development ideas to recommended reading lists and activities related to themes and subject areas. Carol Otis Hurst, a nationally known storyteller, lecturer, author, and language arts consultant, shares her expertise.
Internet Public Library Youth Division Reading Zone
Here you’ll find links to teacher resources, online stories and poetry, and author Web sites.
Nancy Keane’s Booktalks
This site provides bibliographies and annotated bibliographies of children’s books. Books are categorized by author, subject, title, and grade level. Also included are recommended reading lists, book review sources, and tips on giving book talks.
This site offers reviews of children’s books; activities for children, teachers, and educators; special interviews with authors and illustrators; and links to related sites.
Internet School Library Media Center Literary Prizes
This site contains an extensive list of links of major book awards for children, juveniles, and young adults.
Here you’ll find a printable list of all the Newbery Medal winners since the award’s inception in 1922. Each year the Newbery Medal is awarded to “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”
About the Newbery and How It Is Awarded
Learn about the history of the Newbery Medal and how it is awarded.
Caldecott Medal Winners
This site has a printable list of all the Caldecott Medal Winners and Honor Books since its inception in 1938. This prestigious medal is awarded to “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.”
About the Caldecott and How It Is Awarded
Learn about the history of the Caldecott Medal and how it is awarded.
Coretta Scott King Award Winners
This site features a printable list of the Coretta Scott King Award Winners and Honor Books from 1970 to 1999. This annual award honors African-American authors and illustrators for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions to children’s literature.
Coretta Scott King Award Purpose and Criteria
Learn about the purpose and criteria used for selecting Coretta Scott King winners.
Coretta Scott King History and Development
Find out more about the history and development of this prestigious award.
Pura Belpre Award
Established in 1996, this award is given to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose outstanding literature for children and youth best portrays and celebrates the Latino experience. Here you’ll find a detailed, printable description of the award as well as a complete list of medal winners and honor books. Some titles are accompanied by book cover illustrations.
Hans Christian Andersen Medal Winners
Here’s a list of Hans Christian Andersen Medal Winners since the award’s inception in 1956. This international children’s book award is given every two years to one author and one illustrator in recognition of his or her entire body of work.
Laura Ingalls Wilder Award
This site features a printable list of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal winners since its inception in 1960. This award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.
Mildred L. Batchelder Award
This site features a printable list of all the Mildred L. Batchelder Award winners and honor books from 1968 to the present, including background information about the award. Each year, the Batchelder Award is presented to the publisher of the most outstanding children’s book from another country that is printed in translation and published in the United States.
Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award Here you’ll find a printable list of all of the Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction winners from 1984 to 1998. This award is given to a work of historical fiction set in the New World and published in the United States.
Edgar Allan Poe Awards
This site displays a printable list of the Edgar Allan Poe Award winners for Best Juvenile Novel in mystery from 1962 to 1998, and Best Young Adult Novel in mystery from 1989 to 1998.
Young Reader’s Choice Award Winners
This site has a printable list of Young Reader’s Choice Award winners from 1940 to the present, as well as links to other pages that explain the background of the award, feature all the nominees for a particular year, and provide ideas for literature-based reading programs. In association with the Pacific Northwest Library Association, children and young adults from the Pacific Northwest, including Alaska, Alberta, and British Columbia, select the winners from a list of preselected books published three years previously.
The Christopher Awards
On these two pages, you’ll find the 1998 and 1999 Christopher Award winners for books for young people. Established in 1949, the Christopher Awards are presented to those whose works of artistic excellence “affirm the highest value of the human spirit.”
This page lists the poets who have received the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children presented by the National Council of Teachers of English. It also includes links to a profile on Eloise Greenfield, the 1997 recipient, and background information about the award.
Margaret A. Edwards Award for Outstanding Literature for Young Adults This site features a printable list of winners for this award, which honors an author for lifetime achievement in writing for teenagers.
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award Winners
This site features current winners and honor books, as well as additional links to acceptance speeches and past winners. The award, established in 1967, is given for outstanding fiction or poetry, outstanding nonfiction, and outstanding illustrations.
Here you’ll find a printable list of Phoenix Award winners and honor books from 1985 to the present. This award recognizes books of high literary merit published in the English language 20 years previously that have not received a major children’s book award.
American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults
This page provides a list of links, compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association, to various awards and recommended books for teenagers.
American Library Association Notable Children’s Books
This page provides a comprehensive list of links to major children’s book awards and their winners, including ALA’s Notable Children’s Books from 1996 to the present.
Golden Kite Award
This site features Golden Kite award winners and honor books from 1974 to 1997 and includes some acceptance speeches in text. Presented by the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, this award honors members whose work exhibits excellence and appeals to the interests and concerns of children.
International Reading Association Children’s Books Awards
This award is given for first or second published books to an author who shows promise in the children’s book field. This site provides only background information on the award. It does not provide a list of previous winners.
Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children
Established in 1990, this annual award promotes and recognizes excellence in nonfiction writing for children. Here you’ll find a list of winners and honor books, as well as several links to learn more about the background of the award.