Literature and History – a love story

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I love literature. I love stories, and am endlessly enthralled with the multiplicity of ways those stories can communicate, and can connect people, places and ideas. I also love history, and one of the reasons I have always enjoyed teaching it is the ability to connect ideas about our history with individual’s experiences. So, what has been most interesting to me through this subject is how eye-opening the idea of using literature in non-traditional subject areas has been! When I think about it now, it makes perfect sense, but as a HSIE teacher previously, I had never even contemplated using fiction to support my teaching.

For me, completing ETL402 – Literature Across the Curriculum, as part of my study towards the M.Ed Teacher Librarianship, has broadened my ideas about the role of fiction in my work as a TL. In my capacity as a TL in a public high school in Western Sydney, I’m passionate about expanding our collection of quality fiction, and ensuring that we provide a comprehensive range of texts which support and extend the literary needs of our diverse student body. I have, however, considered this as somewhat separate to my role of supporting teaching and learning within the school. I must admit to only really considering literature as a resource for the English faculty, and steered directly to non-fiction when thinking about ways that I could provide support for other faculty areas – my beloved history included! In discussions last year with our Society and Culture class about their PIPs, not once did Simon and the Homosapien Agenda pop into my head when directing the student whose research was looking at the barriers gay students face in coming out to their peers.

So, what does this mean for my professional practice then? I’m now more actively engaged in exploring a wider range of texts and strategies to support learning, no matter what the subject area. We are implementing a tagging system in our catalogue to highlight fiction texts that are suitable for a variety of subjects, and in my regular faculty liaison meetings, I will now be promoting fiction options to support their subjects. Science and Maths don’t just live in the non-fiction section! The possibilities for integrating literature in science, and encouraging teachers to consider creative options to achieve their outcomes, are exciting. I found Pennington’s (2010) discussion on using science fiction in the Science classroom particularly interesting, and was surprised at my own surprise at the thought of using creative writing as a learning strategy in a Science lesson!

Apart from these revelations for me about the role of fiction in subjects other than English though, this subject has helped consolidate for me the importance of what we do in the library. We have unrivalled opportunities to impact student learning, both inside and outside the classroom. Providing literature which encompasses and represents the diversity of human experience is a huge responsibility, and the impact of this for our students in extraordinary. Students who see their own experiences reflected on the shelves gain a stronger sense of the value of their own stories (Hinton, 2007). Conversely, students who see other people’s lives and experiences in the pages of a novel or picture book develop a stronger world view, and develop a sense of empathy and acceptance for the differences around them (Smolen, 2010). Providing a multiplicity of experiences in a wide range of children’s literature has significant benefits for students (Bothelo 2009), and I’m excited about the possibilities of expanding the impact of our burgeoning literature collection – reading for pleasure is wonderful, and one of my core goals in the library, so being able to read for pleasure to support teaching and learning? Win win!!

References:

Bothelo, K, and Rudman, M. (2009) Critical multicultural analysis of children’s literature. Taylor and Francis.

Hinton, K, and Dickinson, G (2007) Integrating Multicultural Literature in Libraries and Classrooms in Secondary Schools. ABC-CLIO

Pennington, L (2010). Intergalactic Interdisciplinary Curriculum: Our place in the universe. New Horizons, Spring 2010. Accessed from http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/Journals/spring2010/intergalacticinterdisciplinarycurriculum/

Smolen, L, and Oswald, R (2010) Multicultural Literature and Response: Affirming Diverse Voices. ABC-CLIO