Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Children's Literature, Briefly: Chapters 1-5

After reading the first five chapters in our textbook the chapter discussing the subject of determining a good book stuck out to me the most. As I was reading it I kept thinking to myself, “that is so true!” You want to pick great books for children to read but what standards or criteria are you basing it on? On the very first page of chapter two it has listed common ways in which adults pick books for children, all of which were ways I would have picked out a book for a child had I not read the chapter. It then explains that these reasons are sometimes misguiding and we must look at the book as a whole to determine its true value.

The rest of the chapter goes on to talk about quality verses personal taste. “Quality is recognized by evaluating different elements of the book.” There are over a dozen different elements that you can evaluate to determine the quality of a book. We can look at the way the author uses language, creates believable characters, and sets the mood of the book to determine its quality but sometimes it’s a matter of what the reader is personally interested in. Last semester I took a fiction course and was required to read the novel Frankenstein, which I had no interest in what so ever. It’s a classic book that has been read for years and years and considered a quality book but for me it wasn’t! I tried to read it but the words didn’t hold any meaning. Instead of reading Frankenstein I found myself picking up and reading this one book that I randomly bought at a book store a few years ago and have read over and over again. It is not exactly a “quality” book, it has no outstanding literary awards and I have never seen or heard of anyone but me reading it. I love this book though, and if you were to open up my copy you will find writing in the margins and highlighted phrases. This book is a quality book for me because I like it.

The important lesson I learned from this chapter and our discussion in class is that it doesn’t matter what children are reading as long as they are. While you may feel like their choice in reading is silly or not of very good quality, it is important that you allow them that freedom to choose their own quality or otherwise they could potentially become unengaged with reading. While allowing children to choose and read what they enjoy you can always mention and suggest different books that may be of better quality. By not criticizing their choices and offering quality books to broaden their experience you are setting your students up for a greater chance of success in their literary adventures.

Tunnell, Micheal O., and James S. Jacobs. Children's Literature, Briefly. 4th ed. Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2008.

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