Friday 9 October 2009

Introduction to Children;s Literature

I have started teaching a new course at the university. I am delighted with the response of the students. Each week they have a mini-lecture which summarises the main points from the theoretical material they have been asked to read. They also present work they have looked at during the week. They are asked to give a close reading of the type of text we looked at the week before. Finally, in small groups, we look at texts of the type we are studying in the current week.
I take two different groups. A colleague takes a third. In one group, I get round everybody. In the second group, each student has so much to say that we only get through two or three. I keep a strict register so that I can give everyone a fair chance to speak.
These particular students seem to have taken on board that their course is 120 hours long. They have twenty hours fifteen minutes contact time with me. A little less perhaps – we have a ten minute break in the middle of each session.
We ‘re looking at many aspects of children’s literature, mainly 21st Century, though the first session was on the history of children’s literature. This week we looked at picture book texts. Then we’ll move on to chapter book, books for fluent readers, books for teens, books for young adults, high-lows and graphic novels.
We practise an analysis method I call text autopsy. It’s a very special form of close reading and resembles the French “explication de texte”. It allows the student to analyse a text quite objectively, and resembles a little also the way a pathologist describes the body on the slab – moving form the generic to the specific and establishing the unusual. Students are asked to comment on: what the text actually is, how the content is developed, any linguistic and visual devices used, how the text conceded to the reader and how it fits with other texts of its own generation and historically.
So far, the students have taken this on with gusto. I know a lot about this topic but I’m also learning with them.

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