Creating Space for Children’s Literature

By Laura Garcia

This post was written by a student in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature.

The September 2011 issue of The Reading Teacher features a very interesting article by Frank Serafini on how to integrate children’s literature into the reading curriculum.  As we know, from 1980 to 2000, children’s literature was an essential instructional resource in the elementary reading curriculum.  However, as a result of the NCLB and the release of the report by the National Reading Panel, there was a shift in reading instruction.  Balanced literacy and reading workshops gave way to prescribed curricula.  The use of commercial reading programs and “heavily scripted reading materials” were required by many school districts.  After nearly a decade, though, we are beginning to see a change in reading instruction once again.  However, with the increasing amount of concepts that must be taught and the limitations in the amount of time in the school day, many teachers find it difficult to incorporate children’s literature in their classrooms. 

This article offers 10 recommendations for incorporating children’s literature in the reading instructional framework as well as across the curriculum. 

1.  Limit response activities – Lifelong readers share ideas with other readers, make recommendations to their friends, read another book connected to the one read, or simply move on to another book.  They do NOT complete a worksheet, book report, or story map.

2Build an extensive classroom library – Readers do not become readers in a vacuum.  If we expect them to become good readers, they need to have access to countless books and other reading materials in a relaxing setting. 

3.  Keep the core program in its place – Instead of supplementing the core reading curriculum with children’s literature, teachers should supplement children’s literature with commercial resources. 

4.  Read aloud and discuss literature daily – Read alouds create an enjoyable experience for children while being exposed to different genres and formats.  Teachers can model fluent reading as well as effective reading strategies that successful readers use.  In addition, reading aloud serves as an advertisement for the world of books.

5.  Include literature in the content areas – “Literature is a way of knowing the world in which we live in, as well as an avenue to escape into other worlds.”

6.  Require students to read picture books or novels for homework – Time is limited during the school day.  Students should read at least 20 to 60 minutes (depending on grade level) at home daily, so assigning them to read the book or novel at home will save time.

7.  Incorporate literature study groups –  Literature study groups, such as a book club or literature circles, should be “literary exchanges in which emotionally engaged readers passionately share and negotiate their understandings and interpretations concerning a piece of literature.”  Rich discussions are those that include a variety of perspectives and opinions about the books being read. 

8.  Establish reading buddies – Fluent readers can be paired up with emerging readers.  This benefits both students since the fluent reader can assume the role of the teacher and demonstrate their reading abilities.  The emergent reader can then benefit from the individualized attention and peer tutoring.

9.  Organize units of study around literature rather than reading strategies – For the past decade, reading strategies such as summarizing, predicting, visualizing, or asking questions have been taught in isolation.  It is much more effective to teach these cognitive reading strategies through literature based units of study in which books/stories are viewed as a works of art.

10.  Become more sophisticated readers ourselves – We bring to our teaching what we know and value for ourselves, therefore, we must first become more sophisticated readers if we are to become sophisticated teachers of reading.

Our primary responsibility as reading teachers is to create lifelong readers.  Therefore it is vital that we make room for authentic literature in our classrooms.  We should not allow instructional frameworks to force literature aside, but rather creating a dynamic partnership between the learner, literature, and teachers.  Finally, it is important to remember that if we want our students to be excited about literacy, then we need to value literacy and share our passion for it.

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