I am almost finished with my syllabus for the children’s literature course I will be teaching this semester at Michigan State University in the College of Education. This will be the 15th time I have taught TE348. I still love it.
I’ve never taught the course the same way twice, even when teaching 2 or 3 sections at the same time. Part of this is because each class has it’s own personality and I try to incorporate that into the readings and discussions that I plan.I also change the literature – both that I bring into read and that the students read. Right now I’m thinking about what to read aloud on the first day of class. I always begin and end our first class meeting with a read aloud. Though I will continue to read aloud throughout the semester, I do it more than usual on this first day. I want to try and hook my students, to have them either remember the enjoyment of being read to or perhaps experience it for the first time. They are 19, 20, 21 years old – mostly education majors. They have forgotten about what Perry Nodelman so perfectly calls “The Pleasures of Literature” (also the title of his 2003 textbook co-authored with Mavis Reimer).
I have started many a semester by reading the opening chapter of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I love it not only because it is beautifully written but because every time I wonder if the toddler is going to escape The Man Jack. Mostly I love it because my undergraduate students are completely silent. They don’t move. They don’t text or facebook or tweet. The listen and hold their breath right along with me. And then as they are leaving I hear 2 or 3 of them say, “I didn’t know children’s literature could be like THAT!”
I’m not sure yet if I’ll start with the Graveyard Book again or try something different. Keeping in mind I’m limited to 2-3 books (or chapters of books), what would you select?