Defining and Valuing Children's Literature


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Defining and Valuing Children's Literature

  1. 1. ELE 616 Readings and Research in Children’s Literature Fall 2009<br />Defining and Valuing Children’s Literature<br />
  2. 2. What is Children’s Literature?<br />Literature written for children?<br />Literature written by children?<br />Literature read by children, no matter who it was written for?<br />2<br />
  3. 3. C. S. Lewis <br />I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story that is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.  The good ones last. <br />Those of us who are blamed when old for reading childish books were blamed when children for reading books too old for us. No reader worth his salt trots along in obedience to a time-table.<br />From Lewis, C. S. “On Three Ways of Writing for Children.” Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories. 1952. Ed. Walter Hooper. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 2002. 22-34. Quoted by David Beagley in Discovering Children&apos;s Literature: A Personal Journey<br />3<br />
  4. 4. What IS children’s literature?<br />This is the nub of the Fascination [with children’s literature]<br />What makes one book a children’s book and another an adult book?  When I read the one, must I read as a child while the other must be seen only in adult terms? <br />Beagley, Discovering Children&apos;s Literature: A Personal Journey<br />4<br />
  5. 5. Another view of children’s lit<br />Gerald Early:<br />“I firmly believe there is no such thing as children&apos;s literature,” Early writes. “Children&apos;s literature exists as an idea in the adult mind about the ways one speaks to children, about how we adults configure childhood. Children’s literature celebrates the imagination we think is necessary for us to engage childhood as adults. It is a way for adults, in short, to distinguish children from adults.” <br />Quoted by Liam Otten in “More mainstream than ever, children&apos;s literature remains hard to define, poorly understood and frequently underestimated.”<br />5<br />What Is Children&apos;s Literature? Belles Lettres, Vol. III, no. 3<br />[Original article no longer online]<br />
  6. 6. A “safe” definition?<br />Laura Laffrado:<br />It is probably most useful to define children’s literature broadly, as literature that doesn&apos;t exclude children, family literature, literature for a number of generations.<br />Teaching American Children&apos;s Literature in The Heath Anthology of American Literature Newsletter Number XII, Fall 1995<br />6<br />
  7. 7. What is the value of children’s literature?<br />John Cech: Inspiring Children With Words(3rd article down!)<br />“Children’s books represent our first encounters with literature, in which we hear words used beautifully and tune ourselves to the rhythms of our language. One can’t overstate the value of children&apos;s literature. Millions of people who will never read Tolstoy or Shakespeare will read Charlotte’s Web - and never forget the experience. Einstein kept a volume of Grimm’s Fairy Tales on his night table throughout his life because he said they sparked his imagination.”<br />7<br />
  8. 8. What is the function of literature?<br />Nina Bawden:<br />8<br />From the inaugural Dorothy Briley Lecture, delivered at the third IBBY Regional Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, on October 8, 1999 <br />
  9. 9. Why do children read?<br />Many reasons:<br />reading can provide a safe environment for experimenting with moral and psychological risk.<br />reading may provide a safe haven in a world of real-life risk.<br />Either way, the reader needs to feel a sense of control over his or her reading matter <br />9<br /><ul><li>Margaret Mackey, “Risk, Safety, and Control in Young People's Reading Experiences.” School Libraries Worldwide 9 no1 50-63 Ja 2003 </li></li></ul><li>Controlling reading<br />Margaret Mackey:<br />“. . . too many adults want children to read, and read with enthusiasm, without conceding to them any vestige of the sense of real control that is one of the social and psychological triumphs of reading. Children, who are trying to “win at growing up” as Beverly Cleary’s (1984, p. 182) Ramona so succinctly expresses the challenge, are being given a false passport that lets them only into a fenced-off field.”<br />“Risk, Safety, and Control in Young People&apos;s Reading Experiences.”<br />10<br />
  10. 10. A Canadian’s view<br />Russell Smith, a young Canadian novelist:<br />“. . . what turns off young readers? A moral approach to literature. A lack of clever wickedness. And an outdated belief in an outdated version of Canada. . . . Books that are good for you. Canadian cultural nationalism is the literary equivalent of Sunday school, and young people won’t sit through it.”<br />11<br />Quoted in Mackey, “Risk, Safety, and Control in Young People&apos;s Reading Experiences.”<br />
  11. 11. Another Canadian viewpoint<br />12<br />
  12. 12. What does literature teach?<br />Pauline Davey Zeece:<br />13<br />
  13. 13. Does educational value “cancel out” the personal value of a book?<br />Comment on<br />“. . . instead of intimidating a young audience away, Harry Potter is showing children as young as 8 that reading is one of the most wonderful pastimes available to them. It’s working! Please, as educators, parents, and librarians, encourage that. I read those “classics” in Middle School, Johnny Tremain and The Moon is Down almost lost me as a reader forever. They were dry and horrible and full of educational value.”<br />Spotlight Reviews: Literature Guide: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Grades 4-8) <br />14<br />
  14. 14. The End<br />