Slice of Life #8 – Writing the air that I breathe (practicum #2)

One aspect of writing that is often challenging is making explicit ideas, concepts, and connections that seem “obvious” to the writer. One of my favorite faculty members once referred to this as a fish trying to describe the water it swims in, or trying to write about the air that I breathe. In this case, it’s writing about a text and ideas that I have been reading and thinking about so much that I forget to explain how I came to the connections that I have. In order to help me think more explicitly about this, I’m going to start at the beginning. (A very good place to start!) The textbook itself. My goal is to give an overview of who the book was written for and what the textbook looks like in an effort to provide context as I begin to talk about themes, connections, and insights.

Huck and Young introduce their textbook as one written for “prospective elementary teachers, in-service teachers, librarians, and others with special interests in literature for children” (p.xix). Huck noted in an interview for Language Arts (1997) that the most commonly used book for children’s literature coursework in education had been May Hill Arbuthnot’s Children and Books (1947). I’ll write more about Arbuthnot’s text and similarities and differences to Huck & Young’s further along.

The introduction also states, “frequently, the emphasis in books dealing with children’s literature has always been upon books rather than upon the ways teachers can use literature in the classroom to meet children’s needs and interests, to deepen their insights, and to heighten their appreciations. The stress which has been placed upon instructional reading programs has overshadowed, and sometimes hindered, the development of children who enjoy reading” (p.xix). As I mentioned in a previous post, the goal of my study is to analyze how Huck & Young accomplished this with their textbook.

The book is organized into three parts (or sections) as follows:

Part One – Meeting Books and Children

Part Two – Knowing Children’s Literature

Part Three – Using Literature With Children

The titles of the sections reflect Huck & Young’s desire to focus their textbook not only on the books/literature, but also on children as readers in the context of a classroom. This is further confirmed with a close look at the chapter titles in each section. I’ve included a brief description of the contents of each chapter.

Part One – Meeting Books and Children

1.Growth Patterns and Book Selections – Brings knowledge of child development, learning theories, and children’s interests together along with how and why to select “good books”.

2.Children’s Books of Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow – Gives a very brief overview of the current business and field of children’s books as well as historical perspective.

Part Two – Knowing Children’s Literature

3. Children Read Pictures – This chapter focuses on the first books that children read (ABC, Counting, & Mother Goose) as well as picture books as a unique format. Includes criteria for selection as well as types and themes of picture books.

4. Children Seek Information About the Physical World – This chapter has a unique feature; a case study describing how one teacher incorporates literature into his classroom. It also gives criteria for information books, followed by 12 page section listing types of science books.

5. Children Seek Information About People and Places – This chapter focuses on Books in the social studies curriculum. It also features criteria for books about people and places as well as description of types of books that fall under this description.

6. Children Identify with their Historical Heritage – Chapter 6 brings together factual books about history, biography, and historical fiction along with criteria for each. A unique feature of this chapter is a comparison of different types of biographies about Lincoln.

7. Children Seek Understand of Self and Others – Chapter 7 differs from those prior because it does not include specific criteria, it does however, divide the chapter into sections about books that will help children to grow as people, both individually and in the world. It includes topics of accepting differences in racial & religious backgrounds.

8. Children Enjoy Folk, Fun, and Fancy – This chapter covers numerous types of children’s literature including folk tales, fables, myths & legends; with each of these including descriptions of using them in classrooms with children. Sections on modern fantasy and humor include lengthy descriptions and title suggestions but no specifics regarding criteria or classroom use.

10. Children Respond to Poetry – Chapter 10 defines poetry and includes suggestions for selecting and using poetry for children.

11. Children Have Special Interests – Wrapping up the focus on the literature itself, this chapter is a bit of a catch-all. It includes sections on animal stories, adventure stories, sports, space, mystery, holidays, hobbies & crafts, at & music, encyclopedias, and magazines for children.

Part Three – Using Literature With Children

11. Planning the Reading Environment – This chapter describes the importance of the teacher’s role in creating a reading environment with students both in and out of the classroom. Includes a section on working with parents and the larger community.

12. Children Interpret Literature – Chapter 12 describes methods, lesson, projects, and products to help students engage with literature in multiple ways in an effort to create lifelong readers.

13. Children and Books in the Modern School – The final chapter describes a school wide literature program, including the importance of a school library and a suggested model of on-going evaluation. Also addresses issues specific to children’s literature including the use of classics, censorship and comic books.

Included at the end of the textbook are four appendices as well as a subject index and author/illustrator/title index. The appendices are as follows:

A. Children’s Book Awards

B. Book Selection Aids

C. Publishers of Children’s Books

D. Book Exhibits and Book Clubs

A note about longevity: when I first discovered and read this book, I realized that the overall organization of the textbook I was using to teach children’s literature was the same. I wondered if this was coincidence or if other children’s literature textbooks would also be similar. In a preliminary survey, I found at least five other currently published textbooks that us an almost identical three section content layout. This again speaks to impact that this textbook has had on the teaching (and thinking) about children’s literature in education.

Tomorrow: I will list and describe some of the books, research, and articles from the time that Huck & Young were writing and publishing their textbook. This is important understanding for me I as consider both how this textbook was shaped by what was going on at the time, and how it came to shape thinking about children’s literature in education today.


Arbuthnot, M. H. (1947). Children and books. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman.

Huck, C. S., & Young, D. A. (1961). Children’s literature in the elementary school. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Carpenter, M., & Peterson, B. (1997). Charlotte Huck – Children’s Literature in the Classroom. Language Arts, 74(7).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s