December 13

What are the key elements of children’s literature?

For the purpose of this blog entry I will just use point forms to highlight the important aspects of children’s literature that I think are most relevant.

“The dilemma of children’s literature is not only that so many people who are involved in its processes, but that everyone has once had the experience of being a child, and therefore is a stakeholder – and an expert” (Winch, 2006, p 394)

  •  It should always be an enjoyable experience for the listener/reader.
  • Children’s literature written for children by adults.
  • Literature that is read by or to children. (‘Children’ being aged between infancy and adolescence).
  • It stands up to expert critical analysis.
  • Reader’s appreciate the story and make connections with the book. “.. a good book is one that at a particular moment caused them to feel and to think. These experiences don’t end when the book is returned to the shelf; rather, readers internalise them, applying them to personal experiences and other reading events.” (Barone, 2010, p7)
  • Interest and relevance to reader.
  • Appropriateness of topic for children. Through the ages this appropriate has changed in focus but it should remain of relevance for all publishers and readers. Librarians play a significant role in monitoring this reading and guidance.
  • There is a strong influence of what is written by cultural beliefs.
  • Literature is usually read but can be performed. It can be printed or broadcasted.
  • They tend to share a story, characters, setting, and plot.
  • Books and stories for children are traditionally designed to teach, socialise and teach cultural aspects for children.
  • Children’s literature is more than pedagogy and advocacy. It offers opportunity to dip into those deepest stories of living – change, frailty, failure, success, loss, growth etc.
  • “Children’s literature is an artistically mediated form of communication – a conversation – that a society has with its young” (Winch, 2006, p398)
  • Children’s literature characteristically prose narrative, but can include poetry, drama, and factual writing.
  • The main character is generally a child or stand in child like an animal or toy.
  • “Picturebooks are a unique adaptations of the novel from – very short and using visual as well as verbal text for the carriage of story.” (Winch, 2006, p398)
  • Literature read by children is children’s literature.
  • “The point is that literature is a deep experience that we respond to in many different ways and many different levels.” (Winch, 2006, p 401)
  • “Children’s literature is a map of childhood, and childhood is a diverse and subjective space. Children’s literature reflects this diversity and offers children the opportunity to create their own maps and to traverse their own ways.” (Winch, 2006, p 410).
  • Children’s literature is a literature of growing. Bildungsroman the novel of development – the self awakening of the central character.
  • Children’s literature is designed for children in story, language, typography and physical format.
  • Children’s literature in a narrow sense is any story or work of fiction that has something to say. In a wider sense it is any of a large body of writings that amuse, enlighten or entertain children (NSW Department of Education 1989, p.45).
  • Children’s literature is an empowering tool, enabling children to breakthrough the silence of childhood inexperience and inarticulateness – like taking a plant from a pot and letting it grow in the earth. Suddenly its roots are free and it can expand and develop its full potential.(Otley 1992, p. 8).
  • Literature exists in many forms and structures and consequently is available for each of us to manipulate and make our own. The literature to which we are exposed becomes a way of making sense of our lives through story.
  • As teacher librarians, our definitions of what literature is makes an immense difference to the way literature is valued and used in classrooms.




Barone, D.M.(2010). Children’s Literature in the Classroom: Engaging Lifelong Readers. Guilford Publications. New York.

Winch, G. (2006). What is children’s literature? In G. Winch, R. Ross-Johnston, M. Holliday, L. Ljungdahl & P. March (Eds.), Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature (3rd ed., pp. 393-413). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.



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Posted December 13, 2015 by gail.burke in category ETL 402

About the Author

Gail Burke Teaching for along time, but always ready to learn new things. I am 50 years old and I have 3 wonderful children who are slowly "leaving the nest". I live in the country and love open spaces, trees and dogs. My favourite place to be is surrounded by books - I love the smell of them. I am hoping to do well with my study and do the best job I can in the Library.

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