This section of the course, titled “Who’s There? Critically Engaging Issues of Diversity in Children’s Literature,” represents a total restructuring of this course to better meet student needs and increase genuine critical thinking and engagement in conversations about diversity within the course. The concept of diversity will be deeply grappled with in this course and we will consider a broad range of diversity including: social class, language, race/ethnicity, learning styles, age, geographic location, religion, learning ability, family type, physical ability, location on the gender spectrum, nationality, and sexuality
All of the text selections, in-class materials, and assignments were crafted to enable to students to deeply consider who is (and isn’t) visible in Children’s Literature published in the United States and to engage in conversations about the impact of the presence and absence of groups and individuals within Children’s Literature.
I am most excited about the revisions to the in-class presentation assignment that were a result of the revision of this course. In their in-class presentations students will select a TV show or film whose primary audience is children that was released in the U.S. from 1970-present and that they feel makes some contribution to the diversity of texts available to children in the U.S. They will then conduct research around the particular area of diversity that they feel their TV show/film engages and use this research to help them develop an in-class presentation that helps the class see both how this TV show/film is relevant to the in-class discussions we’re having about other children’s texts as well as to explain how/why this TV show/film makes a contribution to diversifying children’s texts available in the U.S. I’m greatly looking forward to seeing the vast range of approaches I’m sure students will take in these presentations.
Overall this section went well for being the first term of a new iteration of the course. I think most students, at least by the end of the term, had embraced the importance of having a broad range of diversity represented in Children’s Literature. I also think that most students in the course were genuinely willing to critically engage with Children’s Literature, including texts that they had personal, emotional connections to prior to the start of the course.
At the start of the term students were asked to work together to create a class-wide definition of diversity and the definition they created was broad and inclusive, considering everything from race, gender, and social class to romantic inclination and neurodiversity. I think that having students create their own definition of diversity helped them make this often over-used and vague term more specific and meaningful to them and thus allowed most students to look for and engage with the areas of diversity that they felt most connected to within the texts discussed in the course.
While the presentations in this section were interesting and engaged a wide range of TV shows and movies that reflected the interests and diversity of the students within the class, I was disappointed that most presentations did not critically engage the required research as deeply as I’d hoped/planned they would. Before I teach the course again, I need to revise the presentation assignment, proposal, and rubric to make the expectations for research engagement more clear.
The next time I teach the course I also want to be sure we more consistently engage the framing question of the course: “Who’s there?” While some students were able to keep their focus on this question throughout the course, others struggled to retain this focus. I need to find ways to more deeply and consistently incorporate this question into the course so that most students are able to connect their work and readings and out discussions back to this framing question throughout the course. I’m actually considering re-framing the presentation assignment to more closely align to this specific question, as I suspect this might increase the quality of the presentations overall as well as create more cohesion across the course.