Friday, January 22, 2010

In Which I (and You?) Help a Friend with a Paper on Children's Literature

A longtime friend of mine has a homework assignment to interview someone knowledgeable about children's literature. She sent me an email, asking if I would be her interview subject. ("Because I remember that you are really into books," she wrote.)

I hardly consider myself an expert in children's literature but I told her that I would help her with her questions as best as possible. She needs to complete this over the weekend, so if you have a moment or two to answer one of the questions along with me, you'll be doing both of us a favor. I'm writing this post quickly and kind of thinking out loud, so hopefully it makes a little bit of sense.

Here they are. Feel free to chime in and answer one (or more) for my friend.

1. Can you tell me what a media specialist is and does?
Quite honestly, I'm not entirely sure. Anybody?

2. How are reading trends different these days vs. decades ago?
From my perspective as a parent, I think kids have more competition today than we did when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s. I see this with my own kids, as their activities (Girl Scouts, acting class), interests (the Wii , computer games like Club Penguin), and TV all compete for the time that might have been taken up by books.

When I was growing up, there were certainly these distractions - but somehow, I always seemed to have my nose in a book. (Maybe too much, because my mom had to tell me to go outside an play with other kids - something I wasn't always that inclined to do.)

I think children's literature is dealing with issues that used to be either forbidden or just simply not discussed. You see this especially with some middle grade and young adult novels - and the idea that some adults are reading young adult books is also different than it was several years ago. I think it is great.

And of course, the number of book bloggers and the passion they bring in sharing reviews is certainly a great trend!

3. How do you feel about Censored books? Would you ever share any in particular with your child? If so which ones?
I'm against censorship of books. I think that such actions are a violation of free speech.

I'm participating in a "reading challenge" (Unlock Worlds) where we are actually reading censored books and writing book reviews on our blogs. Many of the books that have been censored or challenged are children's books (or middle/young adult) and ones that I remember fondly from my own childhood.

Several of Roald Dahl's books have been challenged, and my kids (2nd graders, age 8) have read them in school. He's one of their favorite authors. I've also read them poems from A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein as well as In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak.

4.What is your favorite Caldecott/ and Newbery Award winner and Why?
I had to look up the winners here and from that I realized that we have only read two winners. (That's kind of embarrassing.) They were The Hello, Goodbye Window illustrated by Chris Raschka and written by Norton Juster, and So You Want to Be President? Illustrated by David Small, written by Judith St. George (2001).

We have read more books that have been Honorary Mentions for the Caldecott. A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, by Marla Frazee (2009); Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems (2005); Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by Mo Willems(2004); Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, by Doreen Cronin (2001); and When Sophie Gets Angry - Really, Really Angry, by Molly Bang (2000).

I'll answer this from the perspective of my kids, who loved the Don't Let the Pigeon ... series by Mo Willems. They could read this series forever (and I hope they do). Doreen Cronin is also a big favorite, too.

5.How do you feel about those awards should they be continued or updated?

Definitely continued. I don't know much about the nomination and the awards process (similarly as the CYBILS), but I think they serve as a guide for parents, teachers, and librarians.

This is a good one for some bloggers to answer.

6. Do you have a favorite book you would recommend to a teacher to use in the class? If so which one and why?
I'll answer this question from the perspective of a parent whose child has autism. I just read a children's book called "My Brother is Autistic" and I think it would be great if every classroom read this. With 1 in nearly 100 children being on the autism spectrum, I think that reading these kinds of books can be helpful to classmates as well as to siblings. It might help in realizing, particularly with younger kids, that everyone is different.

For preteen kids, I think teachers would do a great service by teaching the middle grade novel "Anything But Typical" by Nora Raleigh Baskin.

7. What would you like to see change in the next few years regarding Literacy and Children's Literature.
Hmm ... I can't really think of anything ... what do you think?

8. where do you see children's literature headed in the future?
Help me out here, blogger friends ...

9. If you could have a meet and greet with any children's Author who would it be, for what book(s) and Why?
Without a doubt, Judy Blume. Because her books are the gold standard for children's and young adult literature. Her books defined my pre-teen and teenage years. She was on the cutting edge of being able to write about issues that were on the minds of kids, and she did so in a way that we have never really quite seen since. (And similarly to the censored question, many of her books have been censored - and I can't wait for my kids to read them.)

10. How would you try to engage children in reading?
Both of my kids are (in my unbiased opinion) excellent readers, and I take some credit for that. Here are some of the things we've done and continue to do:

1. I have always read to them - even as early as 3 months old as part of a bedtime routine. I still read them a book every night while they eat their snack.

2. We have a gazillion books at home. Seriously, they are everywhere - in the library (a formal living room area that we turned into a little library), on the family room coffee table, piled in the corner to be taken back to the library, in the kids rooms, in the car ... there are books everywhere.

3. We go to the library often, usually at least once a week. We join the Summer Reading Club every year.

4. I make sure they see me reading.

5. We read every night together, upstairs in the guest bedroom. We usually read our own books silently, for about a half hour or so, before going to bed. It's a wonderful time of just reading, answering and asking questions, laughing, pointing out words that we might not know.

Hope this helps, girlfriend ... and I'm truly flattered that you thought of me as someone knowledgeable enough about children's books to help you out with this!

(Photo above taken by me in July 2009 at the Philadelphia Zoo. It's a little exhibit in the children's zoo of these wooden houses, and this one is a bookstore, "Bunny Tales and Books.")

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

1 comment:

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Interesting! I am in the process of writing an article for a blog post about children's books.

I took a course in Children's Literature (about a hundred years ago!LOL), so I'm a bit out-of-date.

But one of the Caldecott winners during that year was a featured movie this year..."Where the Wild Things Are."

My kids loved it...there was another they adored called "A Snowy Day."

Judith Viorst's "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" was not a winner, as far as I know, but we all loved that one, too!