Slice of Life #9 – some historical perspective

I didn’t write or post this weekend. I was giving feedback on 27 language arts lesson plans and headed to Grand Rapids for a Nerdy Book Club get together and some family time. It was hard to come back today. My inner editor started talking. I told myself to just type for a little bit, just something. I’m reminding myself of something Neil Gaiman wrote about writer’s block, “If you’re going to write, ignore your inner critic while you’re writing. Do whatever you can to finish. Know that anything can be fixed later.” I’m posting it now and will fix it later and that is ok.

Historical Perspective (pt.1) of the first edition of Children’s Literature in Education

As I mentioned in an earlier post, having a sense of what else was happening in the worlds of teacher preparation, children’s literature and reading instruction helps to give me a sense of who and what thinking Huck & Young were aligned with and who they may have been pushing against.

In American Reading Instruction (1965), Nila Banton Smith labels the years 1950-1965 as “the period of Expanding Knowledge and technological Revolution” (p.308). The concepts and types of knowledge exploded across topics, subjects, and ideologies. With this explosion of knowledge there was a realization that students needed to be taught with the future in mind; people suddenly realized that what was being taught in school wouldn’t necessarily be of use by the time students graduated and entered the work force. There was also a growing concern and awareness of nationalism and preserving the democratic way of life. This was reflected in schools by a change and increase in the amount and types of reading students were asked to read (P. 310). There was an increase in reading in the subjects of science and social studies, as well as interest and research in how to read in these areas – what we now call content area literacy.

Evidence of this is in Huck & Young’s textbook just by looking at the chapter headings and even the order of the chapters in part 2.It is logical to put the chapter about picture books first when considering the developmental stance that they outline in chapter 1. Immediately following are chapters on science, “Children Seek Information About the Physical World” and social studies, “Children Seek Information About People and Places”.

Smith also notes the increased concern about sociological effects of reading which reached an all-time high as reading research focus in 1965. “From 1950 on, these studies frequently had to do with attitudes, beliefs, opinions and persuasive effects resulting from reading” (p.310).

The importance of attitudes, beliefs, and the effects of reading are evident beginning with Huck & Young’s introduction to their textbook when they state, “It is the hope of the authors that the teachers and librarians who use this book will develop skill, ability and enthusiasm in promoting lifetime reading habits among boys and girls” (p. xix). Their textbook is arguing in some ways that by increasing the beliefs and opinions of the teachers themselves that they will in turn pass that along to their students. A key element of their beliefs throughout the book is that if teachers are going to increase the reading of their students, then they must not only have understandings of child development, learning theories and methods, but they must also have knowledge of children’s literature.

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