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Literature is at the heart of the Australia English Curriculum and is integral to

the teaching of language and literacy. Discuss how children’s literature can be
used to develop an understanding of the components of language?
Children’s literature is a resourceful tool in the development of understanding
components of language. Phonology is a language component entailing the sound of
language, a foundational aspect to Children’s literature. It is in with these sounds and
other language semantics comes into play. The understanding of semantics creates
a deeper understanding of the text. This deeper understanding is also developed in
syntax, how language is arranged. The language used refers to vocabulary and the
language not used but anticipated refers to pragmatics. All five basic yet pivotal
components of language are investigated through the “simple, interesting plots” of
children’s books as “(they) are an ideal way to learn a language” (Liedel, 2014.)
Children’s literature in the classroom, due to its simplistic narrative nature, is the
starting point to linguistics. By introducing young students to basic components of
language through children’s literature, an engaging and creative ignition, the
foundation to further literacy development is laid.

Phonological awareness is developed by reading aloud, recognition and interaction


with the sounds in the language. Phonology refers to the study of the sound of
speech, exclusive of its meaning and requires attentiveness to subtle difference and
similarity in sounds. Through reading A, My Name is Alice by Jane Byer (1984) and
breaking down it’s words into small units of sound we become aware to phonemes in
the text. In writing a chosen word on the board ask the students to read it aloud,
breaking it into syllabus and then identifying the initial and final sounds. In
establishing a basic phonological awareness through the attention to individual
sounds, onset, rime and syllabus in children’s literature, students can build on their
understanding of phonology in more complex language. Influential to later reading
and spelling success (H&R Yopp, 2009.)
In studying semantics in Children’s literature, we explore the meaning in language.
Semantics is what attributes a word possess and how words are interpreted when
used together. Reading The Swamp by Jan Ormerod, ask the students to asses
each page what they think Mother thinks and what Caroline thinks of Baby Crocodile.
Ask the students to focus on which words lead them to think this, bringing their
awareness the weight and atmosphere words use to convey ideas within a text. The
simplistic language of The Swamp makes it easy to discuss semantics at a basic
level, introducing awareness to the concept.
Attention to the arrangement of words, phrases, clauses and sentences in children’s
literature allows us to understand syntax. Syntax is a vital component of language. It
can be explained as the structure of language above word level that follows a set of
processes and principles. For a student to grasp a basic level of syntax, ask them to
copy eight sentences from The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. They are to
highlight the subject in pink, the object in red, verbs in green, adjectives in blue and
adverbs in orange in each sentence. Aiding them visually to interpret patterns in
basic sentences found in Children’s literature. Understanding the most common
basic syntax places the subject prior to the verb and/or object. Instruct students to
then replace each highlighted word with a different noun/verb/adverb/adjective, so

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they understand it does not alter a sentences structure. It is through syntax that
allows us to independently combine words and phrases, a skill in which comes
naturally to those who speak English natively.
In interacting with literature, we recognise words, beginning to understand them and
work on concept of vocabulary. Vocabulary is the contextual meaning, exclusive to
audiences, of language. An example of exclusivity lies within many Australian Picture
books such as Wombat Stew by Marcia K. Vaughan (1984.) Incorporate specific
language or ‘slag’ that only readers with enough “Australian context” shall
understand. This tool may be used to narrow the authors target audience. To bring
vocabulary as a component of language to the student’s attention cover up the
nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs from Scary Night by Lesley Gibbs (2014). Ask
the students to use their imagination to fill in the blank as you read, then suggest a
more complex synonym of the word and explain its meaning. Vocabulary is
something that flourishes along with the student, the most basic vocabulary is
explored in early learning through children’s literature.
Pragmatics is a subfield of semantics that studies language that is not directly
spoken, abundant and uncomplicated in children’s literature. Relating to the context
of language, pragmatics can be described in the title of some of philosopher L. J.
Austin’s work; ‘How to Do Things with Words’ (1955) or to focus how the context of
chosen words is suggestive or implying meaning. Make cards with words from Daisy
All-Sorts by Pamela Allen. Cards an individual word that have strong connotations
from the text each and cards with connotations that match one of the word card
each. Students are asked to join the words with the implied meaning. The use of
pragmatics generates layers in meaning with fewer words, one of the five
components that are pivotal aspects to children’s literature.

Linguistics lies at the heart to literacy success; Children’s literature is a gateway for
early learners to develop an awareness and understanding. An understanding of
language components such as phonology, semantics, syntax, vocabulary and
pragmatics. The simplicity and basic language of Children’s books breaks down
these language components to their foundational skeletons and rulings. Once the
bases are understood a child has the potential to flourish in the complexity of
language and literature, beyond Children’s books.

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References
Emmitt et al (2015). Language and learning. Chap. 2: Doing things with language.
(p.29-59)
Liedel, E. (2014) Why children’s books are a good way to learn languages.
http://www.thebabeltimes.com/content/why-you-should-read-childrens-books