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A learner-centered curriculum based on award-winning literature.

A learner-centered focus in reading creates a dialogue between students and teachers. This focus in classrooms can heighten awareness of the needs of individual readers, providing the impetus for teacher knowledge of the literature itself. Teachers need knowledge about the subjects they teach, but teachers at the elementary level especially need a broad knowledge of children's literature. Additionally, teachers at the middle and high school levels need to develop knowledge of young adult literature, and then craft the curriculum to support a knowledge base that is learner-centered and emphasizes quality reading.

Lack of children and adolescent literature knowledge is problematic in many schools. Richards (1994) stated that many teacher preparation programs did not provide instruction on using literature in the curriculum and, almost overnight, teachers have been asked to become literature experts, knowing the perfect book for every situation, every reader and every curriculum area. And, not just the perfect book, but also an extensive repertoire of perfect books. Teachers must continue to develop professionally if they want to maximize their students' learning. It is almost impossible to know all of the literature that has been published, but knowing about many different genres will assist teachers.

Using literature in the classroom has many advantages. Research indicates that children use the language they hear and read. Therefore, teachers should be aware of various types of literature in the classroom. Selecting books for the classroom and guiding children in their reading require an understanding of the literacy elements of children's literature. Karrer (1985) lists the criteria used in Teachers' Choices For Choosing Quality Literature:

1. Books with literary quality that can be used effectively.

2. Books with aesthetic or literary qualities which might be neglected by their readers without help from a knowledgeable and sympathetic guide.

3. Books that elicit thoughtful responses from children.

4. Books that contain elements that children could grasp with guidance.

5. Books that provide pleasure and lead to discoveries about literature.

Additionally, Routman (1988) states that literature allows meaning to dominate in the classrooms, and promotes language development and fluency in reading. However, it is not enough for teachers to understand the literacy elements; they also must appreciate and demonstrate excitement about the literature they use. Invariably the purpose of teaching literature includes both increasing students' appreciation of it and developing other attitudes. Greater appreciation of literature increases pleasure in reading, which causes students to turn to books instead of away from them (Norton, 1983).

Teachers are not always prepared to work with literature based language arts curriculums (Beach, 1993). Teachers who are not familiar with their teaching materials will not use them correctly. The International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English have recommended that literature courses be required in all teacher education programs (1993). Not only must a philosophy be developed by the individual teacher, but a practical action plan must be developed to integrate literature into the elementary language arts curriculum.

Elementary teachers need to know a wide variety of authors and illustrators and their works, and need to know how to prepare relevant activities based on this literature. Teachers who have knowledge of a wide variety of books will be able to impart success to their students. Ouzts (1994) stated that, as educators, we must sensitize children to themselves and to others through books. Books may offer possible solutions to problems or even present the solution that could lessen a person's inner turmoil and thus break many attitudinal barriers to learning. The best chance of breaking attitudinal barriers is through the use of literature. The Caldecott Medal and Newbery Medal books are excellent books to begin searching for materials. These books have been judged as some of the best books in children's literature.

In today's schools many teachers are confronted with children who are depressed and often stressed. This situation would be easier to acknowledge if the teacher had knowledge of books considered as bibliotherapeutic literature. Ouzts (1984) defines bibliotherapy as therapy through books and says that it is an effective technique that can be used to help children cope with their problems and thus promote mental health. It is important that a teacher be able to select bibliotherapeutic books. Jalongo states that there are three criteria to be used in selecting books for bibliotherapy: potential for controversy, accuracy or credibility, and value to literature (1983).

One must realize that bibliotherapy is not the only reason that teachers should be familiar with literature. Reading should not only be required, but it should be fun. Unfortunately, many children have differing views on reading. Children who are considered as excellent readers believe that reading is a way of learning, a private pleasure, and a social activity (Lamme, 1987). Conversely, children in low reading groups think that reading is saying the words correctly, doing schoolwork, and a source of status (1987). The way that teachers can break through this barrier is to make reading fun. This almost impossible feat requires a large library of books. The teacher must build a classroom library where books are easily accessible. These books need to be of high literary quality and interesting to the students. Overall, the teacher must be knowledgeable about literature.

Teachers should not only be interested in literature that they enjoy, but also literature that children in their classes can enjoy. Multicultural children's literature is extremely important in the elementary school. Children must be able to coexist with various ethnic and cultural groups. This will benefit the children of the particular ethnic group because by reading stories about their own culture they are able to see life through other people who share their experiences. Multicultural literature should contain:

1. Positive portrayals of characters with authentic and realistic behaviors, to avoid stereotypes of a particular cultural group.

2. Authentic illustrations to enhance the quality of the text, since illustrations can have a strong impact on children.

3. Pluralistic themes to foster belief in cultural diversity as a national asset as well as to reflect the changing nature of this country's population.

4. Contemporary as well as historical fiction that captures changing trends in the roles played by minority groups in America.

5. High literary quality, including strong plots and well-developed characterization.

6. Historical accuracy when appropriate.

7. Reflections of the cultural values of the characters.

8. Settings in the United States that help readers build an accurate conception of country and the legacy of various minority groups (Beilke (1986), Harada (1995), Harris (1991), and Pang, Colvin, Tran and Barba (1992)).

These suggestions are very useful for teachers selecting multicultural literature and are appropriate for classroom use.

Selecting quality multicultural children's literature presents many problems, but one must understand that positive gains can be made in using this literature. Teachers who are knowledgeable about children's and adolescent literature can increase their students' performance in school. Benner (1992) stated that the failure of professionals to acknowledge and value diversity has historically contributed to the poor school performance of minority children. Additionally, Kruise (1990) stated that quality literature is essential to an effective language arts program.

One part of teaching literature is keeping the student's attention long enough to develop a genuine interest. The classrooms that are able to accomplish this have many commonalities. The teachers:

1. created opportunities for students to practice reading skills through self-selected reading during an allotted time

2. presented literature daily,

3. established attractive, accessible library centers, and

4. provided literature-related activities (Hickman, 1981).

The teachers were not immediately able to develop a learner-centered curriculum based on literature without initially developing their classroom's image and their literature knowledge base. There were specific behaviors that facilitated a student's quest for literary knowledge. The teachers:

1. displayed books attractively and provided ample time for children to read

2. presented literature daily,

3. discussed books with children, and

4. provided time to engage in book-related activities (1981).

These behaviors were indicative of successful classrooms.

Research indicates that children's literature is extremely important to a child's overall language development. Tieman (1987) discussed the lack of serious study of children's literature in elementary schools across the country and stated that the study of literature is given little, if any, serious attention. Many teachers who have taken numerous reading courses still have limited knowledge of children's literature. Ouzts conducted research in the area of children and young adult literature knowledge, and devised two surveys to test teacher knowledge of both the Caldecott and Newbery books. The surveys and the results of the surveys are listed.

Ouzts (1994) analyzed teacher knowledge of award-winning children's literature. From this research one can conclude that fewer than half of the sample population recognized the Caldecott Award Books, while less than one-third of the sample population recognized the Newbery Award Books. The data show that many teachers may not have current knowledge of many of the Caldecott and Newbery award-winning books.

In order for teachers to see the importance of literature, and to feel comfortable about it, more extensive training must occur. This training should revolve around five basic goals of a literature-based program. These goals are as follows:

1. To provide children with a range of literature experiences that builds on and extends their knowledge base, including an awareness of people and other living things, of events, and of ideas not present in their own life experience.

2. To bring children's prior knowledge, life experience, and values into sharper focus through active comprehension by examining and contrasting the many aspects of life represented through literature via language.

3. To provide children with pleasure through the joy of language; and to encourage the appreciation of life experience by isolating, magnifying, or contrasting, "slices of life" for aesthetic observation.

4. To develop children's self-understanding through insight into their own behavior as they encounter a broad range of human behavior.

5. To develop children's awareness of language as a powerful means of human expression as they experience the skillful use of imagery, drama, humor, and pathos (Ruddell, 1995).

Using children and young adult literature offers benefits to many children and adolescents. These students often become lifelong readers, and teachers often become enthusiastic about using literature in the classroom. This increased enjoyment provides opportunities to read and share books, develops a knowledge of genres, and provides instructional practices that make differences in what students learn as well what teachers actually teach.
What's Your Literature Quotient? Two surveys administered by Dan T.
Ouzts, Ph.D.

Survey 1--Caldecott Award Books

Descriptor/Clue                        Title

 1. A picture book of creatures in the Old Testament, the Psalms and
    the Gospels
 2. After spending an eventful day at the fair held on New Year's Eve,
    a little Chinese girl arrives home just in time to greet the
    Kitchen God
 3. A stove-top hat and the Emancipation Proclamation
 4. I am proud of my mother and my father and their mothers and fathers
    and I am proud of the country that they helped to build
 5. Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack
 6. A house that could not be sold for gold or silver and eventually
    becomes a house in the city
 7. The Princess Lenore wants the moon, and when she gets it, she will
    be well again
 8. Bless other children, far and near and keep them safe and free from
    fear
 9. A book of 26 American rhymes and jingles
10. A small piece of land in the ocean becomes personified/a part of
    the world of its own
11. White snow, bright snow, smooth and deep ... Light snow, night
    snow, quiet as sleep ... Down, down, without a sound; Down, down,
    to the frozen ground
12. Snow, snow, nothing but snow and the birds and the animals of the
    hill were very hungry
13. Saint Joseph's Day and the return of many birds
14. Dyeing eggs and placing the eggs on a tree
15. "Whose bone is it?"
16. Better a bear in the orchard than an orchard in the bear
17. A girl named Madeline falls into the Seine River and is rescued by
    a dog called Genevieve
18. Do not stay a moment after midnight. If you do, your coach will
    turn back into a pumpkin
19. A frog and a rat get married and go to France
20. Trees make everything beautiful
21. It is time of wonder-for wondering, for instance: where do
    hummingbirds go in a hurricane?
22. "Never again shall you with your flattery get me to sing with my
    eyes closed."
23. A star piniata for a little Mexican girl named Ceci for her posada
24. Old Russian woman and the Holy Child
25. Mouse>cat>dog>royal tiger>mouse
26. New snowfall and a little black boy named Peter
27. Max is sent to bed without his supper and his room becomes a
    magical place of wild things
28. A king and a queen invite a boy to their house and he brings many
    animals
29. Lacklie MacLacklan, his wife, and ten bairns and room galore
30. A girl named Samantha, or Sam, has a vivid imagination that
    constantly runs wild
31. Corporal Farrell brought the barrel, Private Parriage brought the
    carriage, but Drummer Hoff fired it off
32. A fool who seeks his fortune and marries the Czar's daughter by
    making a flying ship
33. A donkey who disappears
34. Ananse the Spiderman
35. A fox who lost his tail and had to perform tasks to regain his tail
36. A runaway dumpling
37. At your service, Duffy my dear, said the devil
38. A Pueblo Indian tale of a boy who became an arrow in search of his
    father
39. What the mosquito told the iguana
40. 26 African tribes from A to Z
41. Wordless book of the 40 day storm
42. A Native American girl who becomes a horse at death
43. An ox-cart filled with family-made goods
44. Fables with each having a moral
45. A jungle journey
46. African storytelling and images cast by shadows
47. Louis Bleriot and his flight across the English Channel
48. George and Red-Cross Knight and Una
49. The bell rings for those who believe
50. Island in the sky with beautiful birds becomes a temporary home for
    a janitor and his dog
51. Owling
52. Dancing in the attic
53. Chinese Red Riding Hood
54. Under Chaos/Holstein Cows
55. Flying frogs
56. The Great Bellini
57. Love of two lands-Japan and the United States

Survey 2--Newbery Award Books

Descriptor/Clue                        Title

 1. Claudia runs away and lives at the New York Metropolitan Museum of
    Art
 2. An epic type book set in the land of Pyrdain
 3. Poor black sharecroppers and a faithful coon dog
 4. A mentally retarded younger brother named Charlie
 5. Super rats
 6. Her Eskimo name is Miyak
 7. A 13 year old white boy is forced to join the crew of a slave ship
    and "dance" the slaves
 8. Mayo Cornelius Higgins
 9. Will Stanton tries to find the golden harp to awaken the ancient
    sleepers
10. Cassie Logan, a girl reared by a proud and independent black family
11. The secret land of Leslie and Jess
12. Sixteen heirs to the Sam Westing estate
13. A 14 year old New Hampshire girl keeps a journal for two years and
    during this time her father remarries and her best friend dies
14. Chesapeake life of Caroline and Louise
15. A book of poems about life at an imaginary inn run by William Blake
16. Dicey, James, Maybeth and Sammy Tillerman
17. Journal writing of Leigh Botts to his favorite author
18. Aerin, with the guidance of the wizard Luthe and with the help of
    the blue sword, wins the birthright due her as the daughter due her
    as the daughter of a Damarian King
19. A mail-order bride from Maine
20. Prince Brat and Jemmy
21. 16th president "in pictures"
22. Celebration of insect life and insect poetry
23. Danish Jews escape/Copenhagen 1943
24. Jeffrey Lionel was always running
25. A lost beagle, Marty Preston and Judd Travers
26. Aunt May, Uncle Ob, Summer and Cletus
27. Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas and Gabriel

Results of Survey 1--Caldecott Award Books (126 Respondents)

Titles                                     Percent of Correct Responses
                                           in Descending Order

1. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears    85.7
2. Where the Wild Things Are               75.3
3. The Polar Express                       73.8
4. Many Moons                              73.3
5. Sylvester and the Magic Pebbles         73.0
6. A Snowy Day                             71.0
7. Madeline's Rescue                       71.0
8. Cinderella or the Little Glass
  Slipper                                  70.6
9. Jumanji                                 64.2
10. Make Way For Ducklings                 64.2
11. Sam, Bangs and Moonshine               64.2
12. The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses         64.2
13. Arrow to the Sun                       64.2
14. Fables                                 61.9
15. Shadow                                 61.9
16. Tuesday                                57.1
17. Owl Moon                               57.1
18. Frog Went A-Courtin'                   57.1
19. Hey, Al                                57.1
20. Ashanti to Zulu                        57.1
21. Abraham Lincoln                        57.1
22. One Fine Day                           57.1
23. Noah's Ark                             57.1
24. May I Bring a Friend                   57.1
25. Ox-Cart Man                            [less than or equal to] 48.4
26. Mei Li                                 [less than or equal to] 48.4
27. White Snow, Bright Snow                [less than or equal to] 48.4
28. The Little House                       [less than or equal to] 48.4
29. The Egg Tree                           [less than or equal to] 48.4
30. The Big Snow                           [less than or equal to] 48.4
31. Song of the Swallows                   [less than or equal to] 48.4
32. Nine Days to Christmas                 [less than or equal to] 48.4
33. Baboushka and the Three Kings          [less than or equal to] 48.4
34. Once a Mouse                           [less than or equal to] 48.4
35. Always Room for One More               [less than or equal to] 48.4
36. The Fool of the World and the
  Flying Ship                              [less than or equal to] 48.4
37. A Story, A Story                       [less than or equal to] 48.4
38. The Funny Little Woman                 [less than or equal to]48.4
39. Duffy and the Devil                    [less than or equal to] 48.4
40. Drummer Huff                           [less than or equal to] 48.4
41. The Glorious Flight                    [less than or equal to] 48.4
42. Saint George and the Dragon            [less than or equal to] 48.4
43. Chanticleer and the Fox                [less than or equal to] 48.4
44. Animals of the Bible                   [less than or equal to] 48.4
45. Song and Dance Man                     [less than or equal to] 48.4
46. Lon PoPo                               [less than or equal to] 48.4
47. Mirette on the High Wire               [less than or equal to] 48.4
48. Black and White                        [less than or equal to] 48.4
49. Grandfather's Journey                  [less than or equal to] 48.4
50. They Were Strong and Good              0
51. Prayer for a Child                     0
52. The Rooster Crows                      0
53. The Little Island                      0
54. Finders Keepers                        0
55. The Biggest Bear                       0
56. A Tree is Nice                         0
57. Time of Wonder                         0

Results of Survey 2--Newbery Award Books (72 respondents)

Titles Percent of Correct               Responses in Descending Order

1. Sarah, Plain and Tall                70.8
2. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH     62.5
3. Sounder                              51.3
4. Bridge to Terabithia                 51.3
5. Jacob Have I Loved                   50.0
6. Summer of the Swans                  33.3
7. M.C. Higgins, The Great              25.0
8. Dear Mr. Henshaw                     20.8
9. Julie of the Wolves                  20.8
10. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry        19.4
11. Number the Stars                    19.4
12. A Gathering of Days                 18.0
13. The Whipping Boy                    16.6
14. The Westing Game                    11.1
15. Maniac Magee                        11.1
16. The Slave Dancer                    11.1
17. Dicey's Song                        9.7
18. Lincoln: A Photobiography           4.1
19. Joyful Noise                        4.1
20. Shiloh                              4.1
21. Missing May                         2.7
22. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs.     0
  Basil E. Frankweiler                  0
23. The High King                       0
24. The Grey King                       0
25. William Blake's Inn                 0
26. The Hero and the Crown              0
27. The Giver                           0


References:

Beach, J. D. (1993). Literacy through literature: The role of comparison. Reading Horizons. 33(5), 379-387.

Beilke, P. (1986). Selecting materials for and about Hispanic and East Asian children and young people. Available: [On-Line]. http:// www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed4235 52.html

Benner, S. (1992). Assessing young children with special needs. New York: Longman.

Cullinan, B. E. (1987). Children's literature in the reading program. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Cullinan, B. E. (1992). Invitation to read: More children's literature in the reading program. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Conrad, D. and Hughes, S. (1994). Using children's literature to promote the language development of minority students. The Journal of Educational Issues of Language Minority Students, 14(3), 319-332.

Harada, V. H. (1995). Issues of ethnicity, authenticity, and quality in Asian-American picture books, 1983-93. Journal of Youth Services in Libraries 8(2). 135-149.

Harris, V. J. (1991). Multicultural curriculum: African American children's literature. Young Children. 46(1), 37-44.

Jalongo, M. R. (1983). "Bibliotherapy: Literature to promote socioeconomic growth." The Reading Teacher. 36(8), 796-803.

Karrer, M. (1985). Teacher's choices. Language Arts. 62(4) 432.

Kruise, C. (1990). Learning through literature. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Teacher Idea Press.

Lamme, L. L. (1987). Children's literature: The natural way to learn to read. Children's literature in the reading program. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Lu, Mei-Yu. (1998). Multicultural children's literature in the elementary classroom. ERIC Digest. Available: [On-Line]. http://www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed423552.html

Norton, D. E. (1983). Through the eyes of a child: An introduction to children's literature. Columbus, OH: Merrill.

Ouzts, D. T. (1994). Bibliotherapeutic literature: A key facet of whole language instruction for the at-risk student. Reading Horizons. 35(2), 161-175.

Ouzts, D. T. (1984). Breaking the emotional barrier through the bibliotherapeutic process. Reading Horizons, 24(3), 153-157.

Ouzts, D. T. (1994, November). An analysis of two tests of literature-based items to determine knowledge of the Caldecon and Newbery books for elementary and middle-secondary teachers. Paper presented at the 38th Annual Conference of the College Reading Association, New Orleans, LA.

Pang, V. O., Colvin, C., Tran, M. and Barba, R. H. (1992). "Beyond chopsticks and dragons: Selecting Asian-American literature for children." The Reading Teacher. 46(3), 216-224.

Richards, P. (1994). Thirteen steps to becoming a children's literature expert. The Reading Teacher, 48(1), 90-91.

Routman, R. (1988). Transitions: From literature to literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemaan.

Ruddell, M. R. and Ruddell, R. B. (1995). Teaching children to read and write. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Tieman, J. (1987). On teaching. In B. Harrison and G. Maguire (Eds.). Innocence and experience: Essays and conversation on children's literature. Boston, MA: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard.

DAN T. OUZTS

Associate Dean of Education

School of Education

The Citadel

MARK K. TAYLOR

Instructor

Trident Technical College

LISA A. TAYLOR

Graduate Student

The Citadel
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Date:Sep 22, 2003
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