ETL 402 Module 1: Overview and Introduction to Children’s Literature

The history of children’s books

When defining children’s literature, Barone (2011, p. 9) mentions the debate about when children’s literature was said to begin. Was it when literature was written for children or was it from when children started using literature written for adults (Barone, 2011, p. 9)? While children’s literature is influenced by how adults perceive childhood resulting in books to learn from, books for enjoyment, or a combination of the two (Barone, 2011, p. 19).

The University of Delaware Library Special Collections Department’s (2010) website the World of the Child was really interesting as it has some of the books that were mentioned in previous readings as well as some of the books I have read which I hadn’t realised were written so long ago.

Madej (2003, p. 1) summed up one of the main things that I appreciate about children’s literature when she wrote that children’s literature helps children to “construct meaning for themselves”. It’s always interesting to listen to what children have taken away from the story you have spared as there are countless times where they have noticed something that you have missed. As Winch (2006, p. 401) said “literature is a deep experience that we respond to in many different ways and at many different levels.” We all have our own beliefs, experiences and emotions which affect the way we respond to and understand literature.

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Madej (2003, p. 15) writes about the reality of children’s literature in games which I hadn’t made the connection to before however upon reflection on playing Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo, 2010) I can see this is very true.

Defining children’s literature

Winch (2006, 393) states that children’s literature is typically defined as “literature for children or, less commonly, as literature of children” and moves onto discuss the differences between the two perspectives.

While Burke (2008, Development and social-constructionist Models section) and Winch (2006, p. 396) highlighted the debate of how to define children, Winch (2006, p. 394) discusses the debate about what constitutes literature. Winch (2006, p. 398) defines literature as “a body of writing – fictional and factual – includes novels, poetry, drama, biographies and autobiographies”. Winch (2006, p. 398) states that children’s literature is “literature that is usually written by adults, for children and to children”. Children’s literature historically aimed to teach, socialise and acculturate about morals, religion and education while today they tend to entertain and teach children about social issues and ideas (Winch, 2006, p. 398). I love Winch’s (2006, p. 398) notion that children’s literature is “a conversation – that a society has with its young”.

Winch (2006, p. 400) suggests that we should read to children of all reading capabilities and to read books that these children many not select to read for themselves. I think this is a great idea as students who are very focused in one area of reading such as Zac Power can discover other genres and characters that they enjoy. At my current school we implement the Accelerated Literacy program which entails studying a book for a term. Students are exposed to a range of literature that they wouldn’t necessarily look at unless we presented it to them. Students also study the author and develop an appreciation for writing and illustrating as they begin to understand the process and the intent behind each story.

Winch (2006, p. 406) discusses the commonality between children’s literature and poetry. I think this is true as some books are more enjoyable read aloud to highlight the flow of the words and sometimes the rhyming. 

It was interesting to read about Winch’s (2006, p. 407) belief that we should remember that books are to be enjoyed which Barone (2011, p. 8) also encourages teachers to do. Children’s Literature: Literature, as in fiction and nonfiction, written by anyone for children aged between 0-18 years old.  

The value of literature to children

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Haven, K. F. (2007). Story proof : The science behind the startling power of story. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Publishing Group.

As a teacher Haven’s chapter is so inspiring and reaffirming.

  • Knowing the structure of stories improves comprehension and information delivered in a story structure is easier for students to comprehend increases informational memory and recall (Haven, 2007, p. 91 & 97).
  • As humans, we think, live and learn through stories (Haven, 2007, p. 104)
  • Curriculum content is more effectively and better when it is presented within the context of a story structure (Haven, 2007, p. 104).
  • Using a story and story structure enhances the creation of meaning (Haven, 2007, p. 104).
  • Haven (2007, p. 105) quotes Mahl-Madrona’s (2005) conclusion that “Story provides the dominant frame for organising experience and for creating meaning out of experience. …Stories provides the dominant frame for organising experience and for creating meaning out of experience.” While Drew (2005) states that “Stories provide a template for character and self-development and they also provide a model through which to approach life.” (Haven, 2007, p. 103)
  • Haven (2007, p. 106) quotes the following conclusion by Barbrow et al. (2005) “Stories provide a way to make sense of experience. Stories provide particularly important ways of understanding when unexpected, or uncertain experiences challenge what had previously been taken for granted.” The children we teach go through so much as such a young age from parents in jail, to abusive relationships, to terminal illness of their friends or themselves. I like to think that the stories we can select to read and include in our collects can help in some way to help them process what they are experiencing and help to create a sense of belonging. It’s a bit weird but when life has turned upside down is a relief to know you’re not the only one to have challenges like this and that there is a way through it.
  • Haven (2007, p. 108) writes that stories can create “enthusiasm and a sense of belonging and community” so while stories are valuable from an educators perspective as teachers we are also invested in the emotional health of our students. In this sense stories can be used as a tool to help improve emotional health and social issues.
  • If I cannot see the point or reason for learning something I lack motivation. To increase learning and interest use stories to “create context and relevance for new” lessons (Haven, 2007, p. 109).
  • According to Haven (2007, p. 112) “stories and storytelling effectively communicate facts, concepts, beliefs, values, and other tacit knowledge.” While storytelling also enhances literacy learning (Haven, 2007, p. 113).

“Are stories as more efficient and effective vehicle for communicating factual, conceptual, emotional, and tacit information and a more effective teaching vehicle? Not only yes, but absolutely, yes!” (Haven, 2007, p. 122)

 What are your pleasures in literature?

ESCAPE – When life is too busy, too messy, too stressful, just too something a good book allows you to step back, switch off and dive into another world where problems will be solved by someone else by the next chapter or the end of the book.

IMAGINATION – I enjoy reading stories where you get to imagine a completely different world with different possibilities, characters and beings.

ADVENTURE – I loved reading ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ to my year 3 and 4 students. They were so engaged in the story and became so involved in discussions. Because I also teach in a rural area where most parents are farmers, the students could also relate and make connections to the story and their real life experiences.

Zipes, J. (2009). Misreading children and the fate of the book in: Relentless progress the reconfiguration of children’s literature, fairy tales, and storytelling. London: Routledge. (Chapter 2, p. 27-44)

Zipes (2009, p. 29) laments that many homes are without books which it a disturbing thought! We even have a Home reader program and allow students to choose their own books to take home each day, but still the parents are too busy to listen to their children read each night and the children never return them. Our library’s bookshelves are overflowing with children literature and our Librarian is forever adding new books that the children request. We are extremely fortunate to have a well stocked library, but again the children just don’t have an appreciation for books as they used to!

As a teacher the lack of books in some family’s homes is a worry. If there are no books how are parents modelling the importance of reading to their children and the joy of reading for pleasure?

From a teachers perspective I see children who perceive reading to be just something they ‘have’ to do. They don’t find it enjoyable and they tend to read without meaning, reflection or interaction. They are as Zipes (2009, p. 30) terms it ‘misreading’: missing meaning which prevents effective comprehension.

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We need to ensure that our students have at least one adult in their lives that values literature for enjoyment and discovery, by sharing our love of stories and the fun, excitement and discussions that they inspire. We need to teach students that the literature is not simply about ‘curriculum’ learning it is also about learning and discovering ourselves and those around us.

Ebooks in an educational setting…

In response to iPad: Evolution of Books (SoldierKnowsBest, 2010) I wonder do some of these enhancements distract the reader from the story? I love the idea of enhanced e-books as students are so immersed in technology.

Advantage of the use of eBooks in the school library environment: Students are interested in ebooks and if we can harness that interest for educational purposes or to generate effective readers or students that choose to read for pleasure what a future for our students.

Disadvantages of the use of eBooks in the school library environment:

  • Which devices do you cater for?
  • Who provides the devices?
  • How do we make e-content accessible for everyone?
  • How do we fund it?

Oxford has a free UK ebook site that allows you to select an ebook and it will be read to you. When you click on the title it shows you the series or book level however when it is read to you the pictures are visible but the text isn’t which could be a drawback. It provides a range of genres but limited titles and it would be useful to have more flexible search options.

Inkmesh (2013) is an interesting site that provides an ebook search engine to find and compare ebook prices for various ebook readers.


Barone, D. M. (2011). Children’s literature in the classroom : engaging lifelong readers. Retrieved from

Burke, C. (2008). Theories of Childhood. Encyclopaedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. Retrieved from

Guldberg, H. (2009). Reclaiming childhood: freedom and play in an age of fear: Retrieved from EBL Library.

Madej, K. (2003). Towards digital narrative for children: from education to entertainment, a historical perspective. ACM Computers and Entertainment, 1(1). doi: 10.1145/950566.950585

The University of Delaware Library Special Collections Department. (2010). World of the Child. Retrieved from

Winch, G. (2006). Literacy: reading, writing and children’s literature (3rd ed.). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.


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