Literature: Pedagogical practice for teacher librarians
Literature has been the foundation of schooling because stories and storytelling are the most simplistic way society can learn about identity, language and cultural practice (Cornett, 2014; Ross Johnston, 2014; Lombardi, 2020).
From the ancient peoples to Generation Alpha, literature in the form of stories and storytelling have been used to transfer societal knowledge, to connect individuals to a common history, and to expand vocabulary (Derewianka, 2015). This is because literature is an artefact of human expression and has the capacity to reflect, criticise and confirm life’s complexities. Whilst literature can occur in either written or oral formats, the term is generally used to define imaginative works that represent culture and tradition of a society such as storytelling (Lombardi, 2020). However, not all written works can be considered literature as the essential feature needs to be an idea of interest expressed with an artistic quality or merit (Rexroth, 2020). There are many benefits to using literature in pedagogical practice and they include; supporting meaning making and knowledge construction, building vocabulary as well as promoting literacy, lifelong learning and increasing critical thinking (Cornett, 2014).
Storytelling is society’s method of transferring knowledge across generations because it captures how people have tried to understand life’s complexities over time. This is because literature reflects the author’s perspective of life, and as such captures those societal values for future generations. Charles Dickens’ stories of Victorian England with its workhouses, harsh conditions and casual cruelty to children, provides the reader a snapshot of historical knowledge of the downsides of the Industrial Revolution. Whereas, Mem Fox’s “Possum Magic ” refers to traditionally Australian food that would resonate with a young child living in Sydney but lack this same connection to an Argentine. In this way, each piece of literature is able to connect readers to their common cultural history as well as introduce them to new concepts and experiences.
Literature has a great capacity to influence vocabulary acquisition, because even though nuances of language can be gained from conversation, a child that has regular access to a variety of genres is able to increase their vocabulary exponentially (Derewainka, 2015). A read aloud is an effective method of improving literacy because the reader is able to model pronunciation, tone, inflexion of the text and vocabulary to their audience. But the greatest benefit comes from the discussion that occurs before, during and after the session (Allington & Gabriel, 2012; Winch & Holliday, 2012, p.120). This is because discussions have a very strong influence on student learning because it is constructed upon a central concept of a shared reading experience (Fisher & Frey, 2018; Jewett, Wilson & Vanderburg, 2011).
Additionally, there is also a need to introduce digital literature to students in order for them to develop competency in digital literacy. Digital literature uses a continuum of technology to convey meaning and the level of computation varies from a scanned book to an interactive hypertext narrative with multimodal features. This means that TLs need to assist classroom teachers in sourcing appropriate digital and multimedia resources so that they can become multiliterate.
There are several ways of using literature in learning but the ways I have used it most frequently were through literary learning and text sets.
Literary learning is an effective method of embedding literature into learning. I have previously discussed this so here are a few examples of curriculum linked literature that I have effectively used in my practice as a TL in the past three years.
Text sets are an efficient method of introducing literature based learning into classroom practice. They have an immense capacity to support literacy development and multi-literacies whilst meeting curriculum learning outcomes. By giving students specifically curated text extracts from a variety of sources and modalities, students are able to construct knowledge, as well as develop literacy and language in a social context. Text sets can be effectively used across the curriculum to support the needs of diverse learners. Unfortunately many teachers are reluctant to use text sets because it is time consuming to find relevant resources. However, an effective teacher librarian is able to support text sets and literary learning through the provision of carefully curated resources that meet the behavioural, cognitive and developmental needs of their students. Text sets are an efficient and effective method of addressing curriculum outcomes whilst ensuring students are supported in their learning.
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Part C – Evaluation of Learning.
Allington, R., & Gabriel, R. (2014). Every child, every day. Educational Leadership, Volume 69 (6). pp.10-15. CSU Library.
Cornett, C. E. (2014). Integrating the literary arts throughout the curriculum. In Creating meaning through literature and the arts: arts integration for Classroom teachers. (5th ed., pp. 144-193). USA
Derewianka, B. (2015). The contribution of genre theory to literacy education in Australia. In J. Turbill, G. Barton & C. Brock (Eds.), Teaching Writing in Today’s Classrooms: Looking back to looking forward (pp. 69-86). Norwood, Australia: Australian Literary Educators’ Association. https://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2620&context=sspapers
Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2018). Raise reading volume through access, choice, discussion, and book talks. Reading Teacher, 72(1), 89-97. doi: 10.1002/trtr.1691
Jewett, P. C., Wilson, J. L. & Vanderburg, M.A. (2011). The unifying power of a whole school read. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(6), 415-424. doi:10.1598/JAAL.54.6.3
Lombardi, E. (31 January, 2020). What literature can teach us. ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-literature-740531
Ross Johnston, R. (2014). Children’s literature in the Australian context. In G. Winch, R. Ross Johnston, P. March, L. Ljungdahl & M. Holliday (Eds.), Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature (5th ed., pp. 557-581). Proquest Ebook Central. CSU Library.
Rexroth, K. (2020, October 30). Literature. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/art/literatu
Winch, G., & Holliday, M. (2014). Chapter 6 – The reader and the text. In G. Winch, R. Ross Johnston, P. March, L. Ljungdahl & M. Holliday (Eds.) Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature (5th ed., pp.109-128). Melbourne, Oxford University Press.