Use literature to teach without the curriculum content area being English, they said.
It will be attainable, they said.
But me? An English teacher by training with not a day of school library experience to my name? I thought it must surely be impossible. Luckily, however, it turns out the answer is something that nine-year-old me who couldn’t finish Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl from fear, despite wanting to learn more about World War II, is really all too familiar with.
In reading Serafini and Moses’ (2014) article on the role literature can play in primary schools, there was one sentence in the introduction which I thought made sense beyond all else. “Beyond supporting young readers’ development as decoders of written language, children’s literature can foster an understanding of narrative structures and the role visual images play in storytelling, help develop comprehension abilities, expand vocabularies, and expose young readers to new concepts and ideas.” Could it really be that simple?
To be honest, my simple mind in its haze of new favourite readings providing many new favourite quotes about the value of children’s literature in Module 1 thought that it could be that simple. Use literature to teach diversity and everyone will magically be kinder, more tolerant and accepting, March-8-me said (Jeffery, 2019). But, of course, there is more to the curriculum than being a decent human being, and there is more to literary learning than absorbing information by osmosis.
Cairney (2011), bought my perceptions back down to real life. While I am fortunate enough to not know war, discrimination, and (too much) death in my life, I can’t consider myself a rounded person without some knowledge thereof. The same is true of the students we teach, and as TLs we have a duty to bring the realities of experiences to them through literature, to let them understand the world, and themselves, a little better (Cairney, 2011). Once I had worked this out, and made the Anne Frank connection previously mentioned, I felt a little less optimistic about the literal magic of literature, but more equipped at being able to guide students through literary learning.
If there’s one thing I will always mention in my resume, it will be my inane desire to constantly reinvent the wheel (but not in quite as condemning terms). This is where I feel I have come to my strengths in regards to literary learning, and where I will be able to continue to inform my future practice as a TL. By thinking outside the box and taking literature not only as a narrative to be dissected in English, but a resource with hidden curriculum links inside to be shared across the learning spectrum, I can really let my creativity loose. ASLA (2014) state that highly accomplished TLs are able to support teachers by using comprehensive knowledge of curriculum requirements and teaching strategies to teach a wide range of topics. Now that I am confident in my ability to use children’s literature as the vehicle for learning, I look forward to the challenge of making literary learning something my students take away from every resource I share with them… Whether they know it or not.
Australian School Library Association. (2014).Evidence guide for teacher librarians in the highly accomplished career stage, Australian School Library Association, Canberra, ACT.
Cairney, T. H. (2011). The place of literature in an increasingly virtual world. Publishing Research Quarterly, 27(2), 113-125.
Jeffery, R. K. (2019, March 8). A vision for the future of children’s literature [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/rebekahandreading/2019/03/08/a-vision-for-the-future-of-childrens-literature/
Serafini, F., & Moses, L. (2014). The roles of children’s literature in the primary grades. The Reading Teacher, 67(6), 465-468.