Children's Literature

Instructor: Chi-Fen Emily Chen, Ph.D. 陳其芬

Department of English, National Kaohsiung First University of Science and Technology, Taiwan


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Teaching Literature to Children

 Please read Chapter 4 from Russell, D. L. (2009). Literature for children: a short introduction.

The Reader-Centered Approach to Literature

 

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.                                                             ~ Francis Bacon

"Readers return to books because of the way they feel about the reading, their response to the text."                                                              ~ Martha Combs

 Definition: What is the reader-centered approach to literature?

  • The reader-centered approach, based on reader-response criticism, emphasizes the individual as a reader-responder. It argues that reading a literary text is part of a complex process that includes a collaboration between the writer, the text, and the reader.

  • A text is re-created every time someone new reads it, and it becomes, in the process, increasingly richer. The text is a stimulus that elicits responses from us based on our past experiences, our previous reading, our thoughts, and our feelings.

  • In this reader-response approach, the text acts on the reader and the reader interacts with the text; therefore, this analytical method is often referred to as transactional analysis.

  • The reader-response critical theory teaches us that there are no absolutes. It enables us to examine the complexity of human behavior and motivation, the difficulty in ascertaining right and wrong, and the interdependencies involved in any social construct.

 Objectives of the reader-centered approach (Purves, Rogers, & Soter,1990):

1.  To encourage individual readers to feel comfortable with their own responses to a literary work.

2.  To encourage the readers to seek out the reasons for their responses and thereby come to understand themselves better.

3.  To encourage the readers to recognize, in the responses of others, the differences among people and to respect those differences.

4.  To encourage readers to recognize, in the response of others, the similarities among people.

  The Role of the teacher:

  • The teacher's responsibilities in effecting a successful reading experience in young people:

  1. Bring children and books together.

  2. Give them as many different types of literature as possible.

  3. Encourage honest and open responses

  4. Challenge them to explore those responses and learn something about themselves

  5. Provide them with the critical language that they might clearly express their responses

  6. Encourage toleration.

  7. Encourage mutual understanding.

  Suggested activities:

  1. Reading Aloud

Effective reading aloud can be modeled by observing the following guidelines.

1)  Read stories you enjoy.

2)  Choose stories that are suitable to the children's emotional and social developmental levels. Don't be afraid if the text includes a few challenging words.

3)  Be sure the illustrations in a picture book can be seen easily by everyone.

4)  Keep the reading experience an interactive one.

5)  Be sure to pronounce the words correctly. Rehearse your reading and be sure to use the proper tone and assume different voices if there is a dialogue.

  1. Storytelling

Successful storytelling can be achieved by observing the following guidelines.

1)  Tell the stories you love and be sure your story is appropriate for your audience.

2)  Tell the story in your own words. Make the language easy to understand.

3)  Make sure your story has an attractive beginning and a strong, definitive ending.

4)  Pay attention to the rhythm and intonation. Change your tone as the story requires.

5)  Project your voice so that the people in the back can hear you.

6)  Make eye contact with all sections of your audience.

7)  Use gestures and body language that feel natural and support your story.

8)  Use props or visual aids to create the interestingness of your story.

9)  It is a must to practice telling your story in advance.

10)  Be yourself. Develop your own storytelling style.

  1. Book Discussions

Integral to most book discussions are the questions posed by the leader, and questions can be posed to elicit varying levels of response. There are four levels of questions:

1)  factual or memory questions: to ask the readers to recall facts from the story or poem: plot incidents, character identifications, details of the setting, and so on.

2)  interpretation questions: to ask the readers to make inferences and draw conclusions from the facts of the story or poem. These questions may require analysis or synthesis.

3)  application questions: to ask the readers to consider the story or poem in a larger context and to focus on further extensions of the theme, style, imagery, symbolism, etc. Application questions ask us to draw on our own experiences and help us to see the relationships between literature and life. Here is where the personal response to literature comes into play.

4)  evaluation questions: to ask the readers to critically evaluate what they have read and to articulate their reasons. This is the beginning of the acquisition of critical taste and judgment.  Remember that with most application and evaluation questions, there are no clear right or wrong answers, only answers that are more convincingly supported than others.

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