Children’s Lit Course Book List

This fall, I get to teach a children’s literature course again after a year away from it. I posted the following update on facebook on friday:

Just submitted the booklist for my children’s lit class – I always have such a hard time with this task because there is so much amazing stuff out there! Ended up with a five whole-class reads and the rest will be student choice.

A number of people commented that they would like to know what I selected so I’m posting it here for whomever is interested. Even as I type this blog post, I’m questioning myself. After six years teaching children’s literature courses, I’ve realized that there is no such thing as “the perfect booklist”. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to get as close as possible.

The course is offered as part of an elementary education degree and focuses on literature for students in grades K-8. When I selected titles, I wanted to be sure to represent a variety of authors and main characters. I selected the following five titles as whole-class reads. We will examine them closely as individual readers, in small groups, and as a whole class. The remainder of the texts will be selected by each individual students.

  • Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak
    • Picturebook, exemplary examples of illustration elements, fantasy/realism, examination of author’s other works, main character = white boy


  • Art & Max – David Wiesner
    • contemporary picturebook, fantasy, artistic elements,examination of author’s other works, main character = animals

  • Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Wilson
    • verse/poemic novel, memoir, historical, multiple awards, main character = black girl

  • The One and Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate
    • animal main characters, fantasy/realism discussion, award winner, main character = gorilla

Cover of The One and Only Ivan

  • Out of My Mind – Sharon Draper
    • contemporary realistic fiction, school setting, ability/disability, main character = girl

The following will serve as ‘textbooks’. I selected books that will allow us to read, think, and discuss children’s literature and reading from different perspectives. Some of these perspectives include: personal reading, critical reader, review, analyst, adult, teacher, and book guide.

  • Sutton & Parravano (2011) A Family of Readers: The Book Lover’s Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Literature 

A Family of Readers - Softcover

  • Nel & Paul (2011) Keywords for Children’s Literature

Keywords for Children's Literature

  • additional articles from journals like Language Arts and The Reading Teacher to fill out teaching perspective 

I’m excited to revisit all of these texts on the “other side” of my dissertation, but mostly I’m excited to study them again alongside my students because I always have new realizations and understandings.


A new semester…

Today I’ve been thinking about the role that children’s literature plays in elementary classrooms. More specifically, the role that it does play, and the potential role that it could play. This is not to say that it is the same in every classroom – I know that it is not based only on the experiences of my own two children. But I am fascinated with how it is that literature comes to be considered and utilized so differently by so many teachers and school children. In particular, I’m interested in the ways that teachers think about it.

My goal in thinking about all of this is not to come to an answer – I don’t think that one, singular answer exists. But I do want to consider the factors that contribute to teacher thinking about literature. I know that the common core standards are currently a factor – as curriculum can be. But there are other factors as well, such as that teacher’s own experiences with books and literature. And my primary area of interest: how were they prepared to think about the role of children’s literature in their own classrooms?

I realize that these are big questions – with many possible scenarios and contributing factors, some more evident than others. But as I begin teaching a new class of preservice teachers to think about, read, and interact with children’s literature – I can’t help but wonder what they will do in their own future classrooms with the experiences we have together this semester with each other and books.

The First Book Discussion

This week in my children’s literature courses, the students had their first in-depth book discussion. For each book discussion (there are 5 over the course of the semester) they read and write a response prior to coming to class. This week we discussed Grandpa Green by Lane Smith.

I love the first book discussion because the students almost always surprise themselves with how much they have to say and share with each other. They start by talking in groups of 4-5 people, each person having written their response paper from a different perspective. I explain that they will not all see and notice the same things and that is GREAT, it is what is “supposed” to happen. It is a bit nerve-wracking for some who are concerned with finding “the answer” or even “the right answer”.

But then, they begin. They each have their own copy of the book (a course requirement) and I see them turning pages and sharing their thoughts. Sometimes they get immediately into deeper questions, and sometimes they need to spend time looking through and sharing what they notice.

This semester’s classes did not disappoint. The small groups discussed the book for 30-40 minutes before we came together for whole group discussion. They were amazed – one student said, “Wow, that only felt like 15 minutes!”. Some things that they noticed and questions that they asked were:

  • looking at the first and last page to get another perspective of the narrative sequence
  • The way the intensity of the color green was used throughout the book helped differentiate memories and aspects of the garden
  • Who was narrating the story? Was it Grandpa or the little boy?
  • Was the Grandpa still alive or had he died?
  • the use of the color red on the page that Grandpa goes to war
  • was the garden real or imagined?

In two weeks we’re going to discuss The Arrival by Shaun Tan – I can’t wait!