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Week 7 – Children’s Literature Studies

12 Sep


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1 Sep

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Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). (n.d). English. Retrieved from

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25 Aug



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Well, now that I have your attention. As an addition to studying Children’s Literature Studies (ESH151) this semester, I have been required to write a reflection on my engagement in the unit so far. I have managed to complete all required tasks on time, and enjoy the subject as a whole. Along with this, I have thoroughly enjoyed re-visiting books that I read, or was read too as a child. I have also gained a decent amount of experience in finding what good quality children’s literature is but will still continue to develop this further. This unit has opened my eyes to a world of literature, and the elements involved in texts more than I could have ever imagined.


One important thing I need to stop doing in relation to my engagement in this unit (and others!) is to stop holding myself back to contribute to discussions, and doubting my abilities to do so.  I have the knowledge to involve myself in these conversations but just hold a fear of failure and lack confidence. Throughout this unit so far, we have covered a range of content in a small amount of time – I need to stop leaving things until the last minute; I need to plan my time more effectively to ensure I spend equal amounts on all my units.


Something that I will start doing within this unit is to read beyond the set readings for the week and to start to build myself with a deeper knowledge (and collection) of quality children’s literature. If I start to search beyond these readings, I may notice that my writing may improve and become stronger academically. I feel that doing this weekly will not only help  improve with my writing, and understanding of  children’s literature but will also help me with my future studies, and quite likely to be a positive in the profession as I will be able to reflect on prior thoughts and ideas.



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Finally, to continue with my engagement in this unit I will keep focused on building a personal library of quality children’s literature. I have been borrowing many books from the local library, and this has introduced me to some great children’s literature; also some not so great. This has encouraged me to read from a variety of authors that are all individuals in their writing, and illustrations to consistently expand my knowledge of all types of literature. I will also continue to learn from others, and I will keep my mind open to the thoughts and ideas that my peers may have. I will keep continuing to be active in my learning and embrace any opportunities that may arise.

This unit has definitely provided me with essential skills that will be put to good use in the future as a practicing teacher. I now realise how important the elements of children’s literature are, and I am definitely looking forward to the remainder of this unit! 


Critical Literacy.

18 Aug


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According to Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl & Holliday (2010) critical literacy when applied to a literary text is a type of ‘forensic science.’ It is reading with consideration to seek clues for the author’s purpose, and cues about how the author or illustrator uses language to place the readers to respond. For that reason, in my view critical literacy is being able to read deep into literature and form a point of view of how texts work.

In the 21st century, I believe critical literacy is a skill that is crucial for students to have before coming truly literate. As there are many approaches of critical literacy that teachers may take to ensure their students are provided with these life skills from their classroom (English, 2004) they must first introduce their students to view texts with a questioning position to form a point of view and then analyse the influence that enables them to look below the surface of the story to see how the reader (themselves) is being affected. As access to literature has increased significantly over the past decades, students need to have the skills to be able to ‘to examine viewpoints and, at times, to take a stand and to respond to issues that are important to them, issues that may well impact their future and their world… as all texts have the ability to influence readers in profound ways.’ (Mulhern & Gunding, 2011).

According to Luke & Freebody (1999, as cited in Vasquez, 2010) texts are on no occasion neutral. In that case, when an author creates a text, they will always have a particular perspective with the intent of transmission of particular messages; influenced immensely by previous and personal experiences, beliefs and biases. Authors have the power to make deliberate choices, especially about how they represent their characters and who will be exposed in a positive way and who will be depicted negatively (Rowna, 2001). Through the individuality of texts, students are able to ‘reflect on their own values, beliefs and attitudes’ (Mulhern & Gunding, 2011) that lie beneath the surface.

Critical literacy encourages readers to discover matters of fairness, equity and power to bring their own perspectives into the creation of new meaning. There is no set way to teach critical literacy in a classroom as it changes from place to place, and from culture to culture. As a child, growing up (especially at school) reading seemed like a ‘chore’, it simply felt as if it was forced onto me. Reflecting on history, I now appreciate the way my teachers taught critical literacy within the classroom consciously and unconsciously and hence setting me up for the relevant lifelong skills. I now hold an attraction for books that portray deep, powerful messages that can carry you into another world, time or place.


English, T. (2004). Critical Literacy. Adelaide, SA: (n.p.). Retrieved from;res=AEIPT;dn=137885

Mulhern, M., & Gunding, B. (2011). What’s critical about critical literacy? English Quarterly Canada, 42(1), 6-23. Retrieved from

Rowan, L. (2001). Write me in: Inclusive texts in the primary classroom. Newtown, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association.

Winch, G., Johnston, R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L., & Holliday, M. (2010). Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature (4th ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.

Vasquez, V. (2010). Getting beyond ‘I like the book’: creating space for critical literacy in K-6 classrooms (2nd ed.). (n.p.): International Reading Association.

Visual Elements in Children’s Literature.

11 Aug

“The world of children’s book illustrations, continues to grow and evolve, adapting new forms and expanding levels of creativity … This specialised artistic field is inviting, rewarding and some might say, on the cutting edge.” (Cummins, 1992).


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Wolves is a wonderful children’s literature book written and illustrated by Emily Gravett, with a rather peculiar ending. Gravett’s debut picture book won the United Kingdom’s Kate Greenaway Medal for distinguished illustration in 2005. This text features a rabbit who takes a trip to the library to request a book, about wolves. As the rabbit starts to read about factual evidence of wolves (what they eat, where they live) the story then takes on an unknowingly twist where the rabbit becomes a part of the story he’s reading. As the images become more and more powerful, it becomes clear that the wolf is hungry… maybe for rabbit?!  You’ll have to wait and see…

According to Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl & Holliday (2010) visual literacy may defined as “the ability to make meaning out of visual language.” (p. 623). The illustrations in this text have added depth to the story to help the reader visualise exactly what the author is aiming to communicate in a way text by itself cannot. Through the outstanding creative use of position, colour and expression this book is brought to life with love and attention to detail.

In Wolves, Gravett sets the reader up to be positioned mainly beside or at the same level as the characters, perhaps to increase the perspectival views of the reader. Throughout the text, Gravett portrays a strong visual imagine of the rabbit becoming smaller and farther away, and the wolf becoming closer and bigger – to emphasise the emotions of power and greed. The contrast of the combinations of collages, photographs, and drawing improves this text to become visually appealing to the reader from the beginning. The increasing suspense between the darkening of the images and the movement from distance frames to close up shows the authors ability to build a story without a lot of words, but more expression through visual art.


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Emily Gravett uses the features of colour to develop the tone and mood of the story. Wolves is represented with many dark, subtle images that enhances and holds the suspense for the reader. In reference to the photo below, the creative art technique of sketching has been used to create depth, and communicate emotion and empathy to the reader.  This author has paid attention to every possible detail, even the white spaces in the pictures have been used to a wonderful advantage.

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Gravett also uses emotions on the animals to appear to look similar to how a human’s body language would. As an example, when the rabbit realises the wolf has come to life, the look of anxiety has become evident to have crept across her face. Similarly, when rabbit and wolf finally become friends (in the alternative ending), the joy and happiness that both characters feels is shown through their wide smiles. Although, it may be quite a fierce read for young children, I believe Wolves is an outstanding example of the use of visual literacy in terms of children’s literature.


Cummins, J. (1992). Children’s book illustration and design. New York City, NY: PBC International.

Gravett, E. (2005) Wolves. London, England: Macmillan Children’s Books.

Winch, G., Johnston, R.R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L., & Holliday, M. (2010). Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature (4th ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University

Language features in children’s literature.

4 Aug

Language features are the fundamental skills that a writer may use to add to their text to make or support meaning through sentence structure, vocabulary, punctuation, repetition or figurative language. These choices may vary according to the purpose of the text, its subject matter or the audience. (Australian Curriculum, n.d.) Over the course of the past few weeks, I have been re-reading (new ones also!) many picture books from my childhood due to studying this semester. One book that has stood out from the rest is Who sank the boat? by Pamela Allen. When five friends: a cow, a donkey, a pig, a sheep and a mouse from Mr Peffer’s farm decide to go for a row in the bay, they each enter the boat slowly causing it to sink lower and lower into the water. Can you guess who sank the boat?

There are several language features that can be identified within this text. As it weaves through pages of repetition of the phrase “Do you know who sank the boat?” (Allen, 1982) the author sets the young reader up to enhance their confidence in reading and to develop their language acquisition. By using repetition, it enables the reader to chime in with confidence as soon as they can identify the next word or sentence. This book is very humorous and engaging for children as the author uses second and third person to catch the reader’s attention. As an example, when the donkey is trying to step into the boat the author asks the reader “Was it the donkey who balanced her weight? … Do you know who sank the boat?” This sentence structure is set throughout the book and encourages the reader to make predictions for upcoming events. As the author lets the reader open up a vivid imagination to make predictions, it sets the tone to allow the readers to use the pictures as a visual guide to predict the next sentence.
In this text, similes are used to make comparisons between two objects. The author describes the pig ‘as fat as butter’ to attract the reader to evolve a mental image of how big the pig may be. Rhyming words are used to describe each character and their entrant into the boat. An example of this includes “Was it the cow who almost fell in, when she tilted the boat and made such a din?” The story is then built up with suspense, until the page is turned to find that it was the ‘lightest of them all’ (the mouse!) who caused the boat to sink.

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This simplistic written book is an easy read that could be enjoyed independently as well as read aloud – Definitely a recommendation for the bookshelf! According to Lukens (2007) we sometimes forget that literature for children should provide the same pleasure and understanding as literature does for adults. Children seek a different kind of pleasure from a story because their experiences are slim, and they may not understand the complications of ideas. As many books can drag you into another world, children need to be surrounded with a huge range of literature that provides them with many language features so they can “gain the richest and most rewarding literacy experience.” (Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl & Holliday, 2010, p.165)


Allen, P. (1982). Who sank the boat?. Australia: Thomas Nelson.

Australian Curriculum. (n.d.). The Australian Curriculum Glossary. Retrieved from:

Lukens, R. (2007) A critical handbook of children’s literature. (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Winch, G., Johnston, R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L., & Holliday, M. (2010). Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature. (4th ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press

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Week 2

28 Jul

“Everyone knows what children’s literature is until asked to define it.” (Nodelman, 2008, p. 139)

There are many authors who have written great children’s literature books, some of which have made the world of literature change forever. Children’s literature are generally picture books that are written by adults for children. We consider them to include not only stories but sometimes songs, poetry and information designed to engage children in several ways. It is defined as a creative type of art that is a unique adaption of a novel because of its use of the plot, characterisation and motivation. (Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl & Holliday, 2010, p. 365-370). Children’s picture books are a great source of literature as they can mentally take us to all types of places, all around the world. Although, literature is not just reading, writing, speaking and listening – it carries on further than that through voices that are written, that can be read, that are listened to and that speak across culture, space and time. It can build a community and a shared imagination from school, the country or even the world.  (Winch et al, 2010, p. 460).

Children’s literature is vital for improvement in a child’s language development. As children grow, mental development happens at a rapid pace and when they begin to acquire language at a young age it is generally formed from adult exposure. From the beginning of this experience children’s literature can motivate and engage readers to form an early progressive literacy experience. As parents read and share books with their children they can offer variety, and create links with real-world contexts. All children should be encouraged to participate and value pictures as it can influence and enhance verbal and visual language.  For example, in A bus called heaven (Graham, 2011) it includes practical, age appropriate language and the chance for adults to communicate about what is happening in this story, therefore building verbal language skills.

Children’s literature can include all types of language features that are key elements for language development from making predictions to working on pronunciation or sound effects right down to life lessons, or teaching social skills. Repetition in picture books is also an excellent element in order for children to develop language skills. For example, in the book Koala Lou by Mem Fox the line “Koala Lou, I DO love you!” (Fox, 1988) is repeated on a number of occasions. As children become familiar with this line, they can jump in and say the line out loud in the appropriate spots. As an adult encourages young people to participate in reading a book, they can also help predict the next event.  Books written for children use relatively short sentences that are rich in vocabulary and with the engagement of an attentive adult they can easily notice what a child is drawing their attention to and build on it with conversation. (Dickinson, Grittith, Golinkoff, & Hirsh-Pasek, 2012).  Therefore, building interest and attention in book reading can enrich the children’s live and language development. All children should be exposed to literature throughout their lives as it is a key element for life’s experiences.


Dickinson, D., Grittith, J., Golinkoff, R. & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2012). How Reading Books Fosters Language Development around the World. Child Development Research, 1, 1-15. doi:10.1155/2012/602807

Fox, M. (1998). Koala Lou. Melbourne, Victoria: Ian Drakeford Publishing

Graham, B. (2011). A bus called heaven. London, England: Walker Books.

Nodelman, P. (2008). The Hidden Adult: Defining Children’s Literature. Baltimore, Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press. Retrieved from’s+literature+is+until+asked+to+define+it.&source=bl&ots=zugiw7pVQB&sig=KgySCOOJonz5f2TPzPy0OrsjCbE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=MMn0UfKdK8erkwWu1oCQBA&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false.

Winch, G., Johnston, R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L., & Holliday, M. (2010). Literacy: Reading,writing and children’s literature (4th ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press