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What is Literature?

Children’s Literature
Created by
Debbie Bittenbender

Bittenbender, Debbie 2004 1

What is literature?
• Literature is thought, experiences and imagination shaped
into oral or written language that may include visual
• Literature entertains at the same time gives access to the
accumulated experiences and wisdom of the ages.
• Literature contributes to the reader/listeners growing
experience--extending their knowledge while stimulating
• Literature explores, orders, evaluates, and illuminates the
human experience--its heights, depths, pains and pleasures.

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The Power of Literature
• Books:
• Enriches knowledge
• Broadens background knowledge
• Enhances language and cognitive
• Develops imagination and sense of
• Goes beyond everyday experiences
• Provides aesthetic response
• Plays a significant role in
children’s developmental journey
• Provides problem-solving
• Brings joy to children’s lives.
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“By allowing our readers into the soul of a
character we are letting them know more than
life will ever divulge about another human
• Katherine Patterson,
author of Bridge to

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Readers make books come alive!
• They relate the text to their own life in order to construct meaning within the
text using the author’s words as meaning cues and constructing meaning for
words based on personal knowledge, associations, and feelings.
• (Rosenblat1978 Smith 1998)

• A reader must bring something to the text in order to take something away
from the text. Thus reading is a TRANSACTIONAL PROCESS.

• Readers response implies active involvement of the reader

• Includes both immediate reactions and later effects
• Cultivated through giving occasions to read, discuss, discover,
consider,represent, and reread to make meaning their own.

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Readers and Books
• Appreciating Aesthetics --the beauty readers perceive
in a literary work.
• -beauty of language
• -artistic interpretation of experiences, events and
• people

• Books that portray beauty and truth to many people

become classics.
• Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
• Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatirx Potter
• A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
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• Enhances understanding of ourselves
and others
• Books stimulate emotional responses
• We laugh, cry, empathize, feel outraged, gain
insights, feel compassion .
• Through stories children encounter death,
love, loneliness, hard times, making tough
• Through stories children come to realize
universal principles that we all face.

• Enhances understanding of other

• Through stories children learn how people are
more alike than different
• Through stories they develop tolerance for
• Through stories they learn to appreciate the
uniqueness of their own stories, customs and
traditions as well as those of others.
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• Developing Imagination
• Imagination is creative, constructive power that is definitively linked to
higher order thinking.
• Literature demonstrates the range of human imagination.
• Literature nourishes readers creative processes.
• Literature helps readers envision possibilities
• Literature such as fantasy, science fiction etc allows children to experience
new worlds and events that they may not want to face in real life.

• Increases Information and Knowledge

• Children fascinated by the world around them
• Literature gives children a sense of people, animals, time, place, and events
that they could not experience any other way.
• Provides experiences that young readers have not yet experienced for
themselves, but may one day be able to have these same experiences.
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• Stimulating Cognition
• Reading is thinking guided by print.
• Literature serves as a sounding board for children’s
attempts at reasoning.
• Provides substance for reflection.
• Literature provokes readers to analyze, synthesize,
connect, and respond thoughtfully which facilitates
cognitive development.
• Literature is a forum that offers readers diverse
perspectives on familiar topics by giving readers a safe
medium for trying different roles, imagining new
settings and puzzling out unique solutions to problems.
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• Provides a Language Model
• Language and thinking are closely interrelated.

• “The ability to think for one’s self depends upon

one’s mastery of the language.” (Didion 1968)

• Literature furnishes a richer model for language

because authors use elaborate sentences and sumptuous

• Literature uses wonderful, rich playful language that

readers take on and try out.
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Literature and the Curriculum
• Integrating literature into the curriculum
enhances learning in all subject areas.
• Children learn best:
• -in social situations
• -when content is meaningful
• -is interrelated
• Balanced Reading Instruction
• combines language and literature-rich
activities that enhance meaning ,
understanding and love of literature with
explicit teaching of proficient reading
strategies. It focuses on both words and
comprehension with meaningful reading,
writing and discussion about what is read
and written (Bear & Templeton 1998)
• Bittenbender, Debbie 2004 11
Experiencing Literature
• Four major approaches to creating effective literary
• -Story approach
• -focus on literary elements and genres
• -Great books/classics approach
• - works of established literary value
• -Author approach
• -in-depth studies of authors
• -Unit approach
• -thematic units incorporating various literary genres

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The Teacher and Children’s Literature
• Teachers make the difference
• foster a love of reading
• share wonderful favorite books
• model thinking processes
• create warm literate
• build communities of learners
• teach how to read and write by
making their thinking visible.

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• Teachers of reading need to:
• -know a wide variety of books written for children
• - more than 6,000 books published a year
• -help children locate developmentally appropriate books based
• on interest
• -recognize qualities of good literature
• -read widely
• -can make informed choices
• -constantly update their units, author and genre studies
• -familiarize themselves with authors
• -provide time for students to grow as readers everyday in a
variety of ways
• -understand a variety of genres and the characteristics that
make up those genres
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• Teachers need to:
• -encourage children’s response to literature
• -practice read aloud techniques
• -need to provide a variety of reading experiences
• -shared reading, independent reading, guided reading
• -whole class, small group and individual
• -develop authentic literary experiences
• -incorporate children’s literature across the curriculum
• -

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