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LIS 519 - Introduction to Children's Literature

Winter 2011


Course Description:

An introduction to literature for children from infancy through the elementary school years. Principles of evaluation and selection will be developed, and current issues and trends will be examined.


  • To develop an appreciation of children's literature.
  • To develop a critical approach to children's literature, taking into consideration the current trends and issues in the field.
  • To develop familiarity with the body of literature available to children.
  • To discover and apply principles for the selection of books for children.
  • To become familiar with the relevant professional literature and the bibliographic aids in the field.


  • General introduction to the field.
  • The criteria for the evaluation of children's literature and their application in selection. Bibliographic aids for selection.
  • Reading needs and interests of children.
  • The historic development of the field.
  • The literature; picture books; traditional literature; poetry; realistic fiction; historical fiction; fantasy; science fiction.
  • Current trends, issues, and problems.


Lectures, class discussions, films. Extensive reading and examination of works of children's literature and related background reading is necessary.

Course relationships

The only pre-requisite is a 4-year undergraduate degree.

LIS 519 Introduction to Children’s Literature


Fairy Tale Picture Book Assignment                                  30%

Choose a trade picture book version of a classic fairy tale from the European folk tradition.  “Picture book” for the purposes of this assignment means a book that has only one story in it, and in which the illustrations are at least as important as the text.  The text of your book must be a reasonably standard version of the tale.  (For example, do not choose  a parody.)  The pictures must be worth discussing.
Search the pictures for information that adds to or changes the meanings of the accompanying text.  Put into words the interpretations of the story that the pictures give: how the illustrators imagined the characters and the setting; the kinds of “tone of voice” the pictures give to the story; how the pictures fill in gaps in the text; any secondary stories told through detail in the background.  Be specific and detailed about what you see.  Then comment on the way the pictures work with the text, the role they play in telling the story.  You should explore the narrative content of the pictures as your primary focus; commenting on their artistic composition (line, balance, colour, etc.) is a secondary concern.
Hand in the picture book with your paper. 
The marks for this paper will be distributed as follows:
Reading the pictures
Choice of book
Clarity and style
The paper must be typed in 12 point font and double-spaced with good margins.  Suggested length: 2500 - 3000 words.

Critical Blueprint Essay                                                         25%

Use the “Critical Blueprint” to discuss your responses to Lois Lowry's The Giver or Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.  The paper is to be handed in in two parts.  Part One, the answers to questions 1 and 2, is due on the day the book is to be discussed in class.  There will be NO EXTENSIONS for this part of the assignment.  Part Two is due one week later, in order to take the class discussion into account for this part of the paper.  Part Two will consist of the answers to questions 3 and 4 and a brief final reflection on the effect of the class discussion on your own reading of the book.
Organize your paper according to the questions posed by the "Critical Blueprint."  Use the questions as headings in your paper. 
This paper should provide evidence of thought and engagement with the text:  you do not have to like the book.  You must demonstrate that you are conscious of your responses to the book and their sources, and that you have an understanding of how the book works.  Use examples from the text to illustrate or substantiate your points.
The paper must be typed, double-spaced, with good margins.  Approximate length: 2000 words.  
Marks will be distributed as follows:
Question 1
Question 2a
Question 2b
Question 2c
Question 2d
Question 3
Question 4
Reflection on discussion
Clarity and style


A Critical Blueprint

1.         What happened to me as I read?
2.         What caused my responses?
a)  book as object  (the physical book)
b) my personal history  (what I bring to the book from my own life)
c) my history as a reader  (what I bring to the book from my previous reading experience)
d)  the text alone (the book as a crafted work of the creative imagination: how the author tells the story and what the author tells)
3.         What does this book ask of readers?  (What reader is the author writing for and how can you tell?)
4.         Why is this book worth a reader's time?  (The qualities of the book itself and the needs of readers)
Adapted from Chambers, Aidan.  "A critical blueprint."  In Introducing Books To Children,  2d ed. Boston, The Hornbook, 1983.

Final Written Assignment                                                    25%

The purpose of this assignment is for you to be able to distinguish and produce the various types of professional writing librarians use to guide children, parents, teachers, etc., to the children’s material that will interest them/suit their needs.
In this assignment you will describe, analyze and promote a children’s book of your choice to a variety of audiences using various established forms:  an essay review, a short professional review, a book talk, reader’s annotation, tags.  More information on each of these forms and the specific audiences will be handed out in class. 
Select a children’s book (a novel or picture book; fiction or nonfiction) you really like which is not on the class reading list.  Write a two page (400-600 word) essay review where you put the book in context with others like it, a short (150-200 word) professional review, a one sentence readers’ annotation, a book talk (2-3 minutes in length), 5 tags with 1-2 sentences for each tag  justifying why it describes that book. Begin your assignment with a bibliographic citation and end it with a list of any references used.
In addition to the written component, the booktalk will be presented to your classmates.
The marks will be distributed as follows:
Bibliographic citation
Essay review
Professional  review
Book talk
Presentation of book talk
Readers’ annotation
Please hand in the book with your assignment.
Due:  the last class

Class contribution                                                                 20%

Marks for class contribution will be based on:
·         attendance, having read the book(s) and readings assigned for the day;
·         active listening and courteous participation in class discussions;
·         presenting background information on a selected title (details follow);
·         a poetry reading (details follow).

Background information on selected title

(a component of Class Contribution)                         

For this assignment, you will select one title from the list made available on the first day of class, and prepare a brief (3-5 minute) oral presentation providing some background information about that title.  Remember your classmates should have all read the book so your goal is to try to deepen their appreciation/consideration by telling them something about ‘the story behind the story’. You may focus on the book as a whole or on one aspect, e.g.  background of the author; information on how the story came to be written; information on the setting; critical response(s) to the book; other media versions; etc.  If there is another student presenting on the same book, you may choose to work together/coordinate your approaches, but you are not obligated to do so.  If you choose to work together, the total presentation length cannot exceed 10 minutes.
A sign-up sheet will be made available for selecting title and date. Two people may sign up for each book.
Due: on the day the book you have signed up for is discussed in class.

Poetry reading
(a component of Class Contribution)   

Bring  a children’s poem (or a poem you think will appeal to children) to read aloud to the class on the day we discuss poetry.  The poem must be from a published collection.  Please bring the book in, too.
Please hand in a complete bibliographic citation to the poem you read.  Include which age(s) the poem is best suited for and 1 – 2 sentences about why you think this poem will appeal to children of that age. 
Due: on the day we discuss poetry.

Winter 2011 Tentative Schedule

Jan. 11
Topics:  Introduction to the course and assignments.  Becoming a reader.  A Critical Blueprint.  Reader Response.
Jan. 18
Topics:  Picture books.  Early Literacy.  Poetry & nursery rhymes.
Books:  Gilman, Macaulay, Browne
Background reading: 
Dooley, Caitlin McMunn.  “Young Children’s Approaches to Books: The Emergence of Comprehension.” Reading Teacher 64(2) 120-130.
Arnold, Renea, and Nell Colburn.  “The (Really) Big Six: Without these Preliteracy Skills, Children Can’t Become Skilled Readers.” School Library Journal November 2008: 33.
Scieszka, Jon.  “Design Matters.”  Horn Book Magazine March/April 1998: 196-209
Assignment: Poetry reading
Jan. 25
Topics: Easy Readers.  First Chapter Books.  The independent reader.  Realistic Fiction.
Books: Lobel, Cleary, Thompson
Feb. 1
Topics: Classics.  Historical Fiction.
Books: Montgomery, Curtis
Background reading:
Parkinson, Siobhan.  “Children of the Quest: The Irish Famine Myth in Children’s Fiction.”Horn Book Magazine November/December 2002: 679-688.
Feb. 8
Topics: Traditional stories: folk tales, fables, myths, legends. Fairytales: literary, fractured, variants.
Background reading:
Greer, Germaine.  “Grandmother’s Footsteps.” Guardian May 15, 2010.
Feb. 15
Topics: Related reading and viewing.
Book: Boyce
Assignment: Fairytale paper due
Feb. 22
Reading Week – no class.
Mar. 1
Topics: Fantasy.  Science Fiction. Horror.
Books: Rowling, Almond, Stead
Background reading:
Cashore,Kristin.  “Hot Dog, Katsa!” Horn Book Magazine January/February 2010: 48-54.
Mar. 8
Topics: What is a good book?  Selection tools.
Book: Gaiman
Assignment: Critical Blueprint Part 1 for Coraline
Mar. 15
Topics:  What about the rubbish?
Book: Lowry
Assignment:  Critical Blueprint Part 1 for The Giver; Part 2 for Coraline
Mar. 22
Topics:  Multicultural literature.  Nonfiction.
Books: Lottridge, Munoz
Background reading:
Isaacs, Kathleen T.  “Building Bridges from Both Sides.” Horn Book Magazine July/August 2007: 419-426.
Gill, Sharon Ruth.  “What Teachers Need to Know about the ‘New’ Nonfiction.” Reading Teacher 63(4): 260-267.
Assignment: Critical Blueprint Part 2 for Coraline
Mar. 29
Topics: Issues and trends.
Books:  Doyle, Horvath
Background reading:
Green, John.  “The Future of Reading: Don’t Worry.  It Might Be Better Than You Think.”School Library Journal January 2010: 24-28.
Apr. 5
Topics:  Graphic Novels. The story lives on.
Books: Hale, McCaughrean
Apr. 12
Topics: What is a children’s book? The rights of readers.
Assignment: presentations, final assignment

Readings and Resources

Required Readings – Winter 2011

The books are listed in the order in which they will be discussed in class. Copies have been ordered for the University Bookstore. You should also be able to find copies in other bookstores, and in the public library. 

Gilman, Phoebe.  Something from Nothing.Macaulay, David.  Shortcut.Browne, Anthony.  Voices in the Park.

Lobel, Arnold.  Frog and Toad are Friends.Thompson, Kate.  Highway Robbery.Cleary, Beverly.  Ramona the Pest.

Montgomery, Lucy Maud.  Anne of Green Gables. Curtis, Christopher Paul.  Elijah of Buxton.

Boyce, Frank Cottrell.  Millions.

Rowling, J. K.  Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Almond, David.  Skellig.Stead, Rebecca.  When You Reach Me.

Gaiman, Neil.  Coraline.
Lowry, Lois.  The Giver.

Barker-Lottridge, Celia.  Home is Beyond the Mountains.Ryan, Pam Munoz.  The Dreamer.

Doyle, Brian.  Uncle Ronald.Horvath, Polly.  The Trolls.

Hale, Shannon.  Rapunzel's Revenge.McCaughrean, Geraldine.  Peter Pan in Scarlet.

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