This is an introductory course in Children’s Literature. We look at a variety of sub-genres within the field, engage theory, and examine the trajectory of the development of Children’s Literature over time. I used three texts/thinkers to provide a theoretical framework for the course this term: Steven Mintz’s Hucks Raft: A History of American Childhood, Andrew Solomon’s TED Talk “Love, No Matter What,” based on his book Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story.” Together these texts establish a framework that will challenge students to re-think a variety of stereotypes and assumptions surrounding Children’s Literature, including that of the innocent, carefree childhood.
Students will read a range of texts that will span a wide range of time to help them see the development of Children’s Literature over time and identify significant changes, complete a variety of written assignments that will range from summary to textual analysis, create a visual image to test their understanding of illustration theory, specifically Molly Bang’s Ten Principles as presented in her book Picture This!, and give a presentation on a children’s TV show or film released since 1970 that they consider significant to the study of Children’s Literature.
Together we will read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum), Six by Seuss (Dr. Seuss), Henry Huggins (Beverly Cleary), Coming on Home Soon (Jacqueline Woodson), The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Brian Selznick), We Are in a Book (Mo Williams), Out of My Mind (Sharon Draper), and Babymouse: Mad Scientist (Jennifer Holm).
I think this course went really well overall. It was the strongest section of Children’s Lit that I’ve taught since I arrived at Lane.
I think that the selection of text worked really well together and contributed to the overall success of the course, especially the in-class discussions. In fact, the combination of the texts was so effective that I’m seriously considering teaching the same set of texts in the Fall. I’ve never before taught the same selection of texts twice in Children’s Lit, in large part because there are so many texts to choose from that it’s possible to select a wide variety of texts that “do” the things I need them to “do” in order to help students reach the level of understanding necessary to accomplish all the course goals. But this set of texts worked so well in combination with each other that I think I want to use them again to see how a whole new class of students engage with them.
The in-class discussions were complex and engaging in this course. Mostly students took the Guiding Question assignment seriously and used them as an opportunity to craft insightful questions about the texts that allowed them to really focus in on the aspects of the texts they found interesting and worthy of discussion. This class also did a great job of leading the in-class discussions in their guiding question groups, so I felt as though we were able to stay focused on to what the students were interested in rather than focusing on why I thought the texts were important.
One thing I don’t feel as though I did as well this term as I usually do was to embed the Course Goals and Core Learning Outcomes in the course. I did introduce them at the beginning of the course, and we certainly talked about them some throughout the the class and have spent a lot of time at the end of the term in preparation for the take-home final, but the continual references/connections I usually try to make between the goals/outcomes and the individual assignments and in-class activities during the class were not as strong as they usually are. I think this was in part because of the deep, complex conversations we had about the text that occupied much of our class time. But this is something that I need to focus on improving the fall, especially if I do indeed teach the same texts.