Jenn's Children's Literature Blog

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Critical dialogue #2 - Selecting and Evaluating Children's Literature

Selecting and Evaluating Children’s Literature

In the classroom or not?

I found this article very helpful in terms of how to choose quality literature. It also made me realize how important it is to have a wide range of books available that are diverse and gender sensitive. It is important to include books in your classroom library that have positive role models. The author suggests “boys should have the experience of reading about boys and men who are sensitive, caring, and nurturing, just as girls should be exposed to girls and women who are adventurous, courageous and risk takers”. These are issues I would have never really considered if I had not been exposed to the topics we have been in education 457.
The opinion the author states about mass market books is something I have been thinking about. The author states “there is no reason to have them in classrooms; children will most likely see them elsewhere” I wonder about the student who is very difficult to engage in reading? If they would read a SpongeBob book is this not better than reading nothing at all? I agree that mass market books should not be a huge portion of your classroom library but can they serve a purpose in the classroom?

Critical dialogue #1 - Aboriginal Literacy

Aboriginal literacy: Reading the tracks

I found this reading interesting and insightful. Although this article focuses on Australian Aboriginal children I believe it is relevant to us here in Prince George. The part I found most insightful is the reasons as to why some Aboriginal children have difficulty learning to read. Before reading this article I knew that this was the case, but I did not understand why. It is explained that Aboriginal children are frequently raised in oral cultures. For example, if they need information they will seek out an elder to share this information whereas westerners will often turn to print (book, dictionaries etc.).
Some suggestions are provided as to what teachers can do to encourage literacy among Aboriginals including understanding the background of the students, understanding the culture of the students, and involving families.
After reading this article and gaining a better understanding of why Aboriginal students struggle with literacy I cannot help but think how unfair it is that we impose our views (white middle class) of what school and learning should be about. I think about what a struggle it is for Aboriginals to fit in a society that is not built around their world view. How can we encourage a balance? What bigger role can we play as teachers?

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The River - Teaching Ideas

I enjoyed reading this book and got the feeling boys would really like it. I thought of several teaching ideas and could easily see it developed into a unit. A few ideas that I will share include Language Arts and Personal Planning at the Grade 5 level.
In Langauge Arts one of the focuses is getting students to appraise their own and others work. One of the suggestions in the IRPs is to have students explore the following questions:
  1. How has the author communicated ideas clearly?
  2. In what ways has the author used words effectively?
  3. In what ways does the author keep you interested in the story?

I can envision students being divided into groups to answer these questions using specific examples from The River. The groups could then share their suggestions and examples with the class.

One of the PLOs for personal planning in Grade 5 is: Identify and apply the steps in a decision making process. The decision that Brian is forced to make after Derek is struck by lightening could be used to explore this PLO. Students could discuss what steps Brian went through and what could have happened if Brian had made a different decision. Students could then apply this to their own life and write an essay about a major decision that they have had to make and what steps they went through to reach this decision. Students could also write a different ending to the story for example what might have happened if Brian had choosen to stay and not go down the river?

There are many other ways The River could be integrated into the curriculum. It could also be used in different grades. I could see a teacher reading this novel to a class as young as grade 3.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Recommended Bibliography - Book #4

Alligator Pie (Poetry)
Dennis Lee
Written by a well known Canadian. Filled with cleverly rhymed children's poems. What else can I say but:
Alligator pie, alligator pie,
If I don't get some I think I'm gonna die.
Give away the green grass,
give away the sky,
But don't give away my alligator pie.
Dennis Lee
Suitable for Grades K-3 (may also appeal to older grades)
Language Arts curriculum

Friday, January 27, 2006

Recommended Bibliography - Book #3

Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type (fiction)
by Doreen Cronin
I do not know what it is about this story but kids love it! I read it on practicum and the students asked me to read it again and again. A fun story with great illustrations. It is true, the cows in this story actually type a letter. Suitable for K-2. Fine Arts and Language Arts.

Recommended Bibliography - Book #2

The Hockey Card (Realistic Fiction)
by Jack Siemiatycki and Avi Slodovnick

A story about the bond between a young boy and his uncle. This book will appeal to the hockey fan as well as the general public. Great illustrations. Suitable for Grades 2-5. Language Arts and Personal Planning

Recommended Bibliography - Book #1

Peak Survival (juvenile fiction)
by Pam Withers
This story takes place on Mt. Currie, B.C. (Pemberton area). It is a story about three teenagers who intend to go heli-skiing but run into trouble. They meet up with a girl who has been in a helicpoter crash (she can outsnowboard all the boys) and run into many adventures. I like that one of the characters is First Nations and there is a reference to Prince George. Suitable for Grades 3-7 depending on who is reading it. This book could be integrated with Language Arts or Social Studies. I think this book has great potential for a literature circle in Grade 5 or 6.

Multicultural Book

Cheryl's Potlach - Realistic Fiction
by Sheila Thompson

(sample page from story)

This is a true story about Cheryl who is part of the caribou clan (Vanderhoof area). Cheryl's clan is holding a potlach so Cheryl can recieve her second name. I really like the integration of a traditional ceremony with modern day society. Real photographs are used in this book. I think students would find it interesting to hear a story about someone who is so close to us geographically.
Grade: K-5
Curriclum links: Social studies, personal planning

Read Aloud

Max the Minnow
by William Boniface

For my read aloud I wanted to read a fun book that I thought would appeal to young children. This story comes in a small version as well. It would be fun to have a class set and have students follow along in their own copy.
This is a story about Max the Minnow, who wants to be able to play like the big fish. Max soon finds “It’s what you do with what you’ve got, that helps you make the grade.” Great rhymes and exciting cover. Suitable for grades K-3. Could be integrated with Science or Personal Planning.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Literature Connection

When I think about my history with literature many things come to mind that I could share. Both of my parents read for enjoyment, and my mom read to us long after we could read to ourselves. We would often take long car rides to Vancouver, Salmon Arm, and Stuart Lake. It was not unusual for my mom to read an entire novel to us on these trips. I enjoyed several books that I am sure most of you are familiar with. Some of the titles that have special significance for different reasons include: Watership Down, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Where the Wild Things Are, A Wrinkle in Time, Little House in The Big Woods, Charlotte’s Web, Nancy Drew, and The Black Stallion series.
A novel that had characters that were memorable for me and situations I could relate to was The Outsiders. I read this novel in grade eight and felt a deep emotional connection to it. I felt empathy for Ponyboy and his crew, and developed an interest in spending time with people who were "at risk". I read the rest of the novels S.E. Hinton had written and continued to search for literature that explored issues such as poverty and gangs.
The connection could have developed because I was at such a strange stage of my life (teenager). I think I had the common thoughts that “no one understood me” and life “was not fair”. I have outgrown the strange stage ;) but am still very interested in students who are “at risk”.
I believe The Outsiders is still a great novel and would not hesitate to teach a unit on it if I ever have the opportunity to teach grade eight.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Hello friends,

I am looking forward to reading and hearing about all of your favorite children's literature. The visit to the library reaffirmed the idea that the selection of quality literature is endless. It will be neat to share our favorites and gather ideas for the future.