Deconstructing
Children’s
Literature
Children
and
Literature
Concepts to Remember
Children are sufficiently different from adults.
There exists a literature written specifically for
children which attempts to fulfill children’s needs
for special texts.
Who you are -- all the experience and
knowledge you have gained -- will
influence how you perceive and
understand literature.
Concepts to Remember
Children’s literature tends
to create special worlds
and to evoke moods and
feelings unlike those
provided by other forms
of literature.
The ability to enjoy
literature is a learned skill.
Readers tend to come from homes where
reading occurs.
Vocabulary
The implied reader is the person for whom the
text is written.
We can imagine we are the implied reader and
understand the text through the eyes of the
implied reader.
Vocabulary
A repertoire is the knowledge
and experiences of life and
of other literature which a text
assumes the implied reader
possesses.
Strategies [of reading] are the
ways of thinking about texts
which allows us to see the text
as meaningful. A set of strategies
is part of the repertoire of the
implied reader .
Vocabulary
Intertextuality refers to the link between ideas,
images, emotions, stories in different stories.
This is like resemblances among people. One
person may do or say something which is like or
reminds you of another person.
Reading and Making Sense of
Literature
Consciousness of one’s own response to
literature and of the response of others to
literature is the most basic literary strategy.
A gap in a text is
any aspect of that
text that a reader
makes sense of by
providing knowledge
from their pre-existing
repertoire.
Reading and Making Sense of
Literature
In reading, we have the
expectation of consistency
within the story; that is,
that everything that is said
or done in the story fits
together to make a
meaningful whole story.
When we fit the pieces of a
story into a previously held
schema, we are participating
in consistency-building.
Strategies for building consistency
(filing in the gaps ) include:
Concretization forming mental
pictures by
imagining, as
exactly as the text
will allow, what is
being described.
Strategies for building consistency
include:
Character - information about the personalities
of the people the text describes
flat character - has only one
or two readily identifiable traits
and those traits do not change
round character - has a more
complex cluster of traits which
develops or changes as the
story develops
Strategies for building consistency
include:
Plot - the sequence of events that makes up the
story
Climax -- the culminating point in the story; a
series of actions lead up to the culminating point
and then the story’s plot quickly comes to an end
Strategies for building consistency
include:
Theme - meaning(s) or central idea(s) in the
story; the strategy of finding meaning in a text
consists of:
– Identification - perceiving that a character in the text is
like oneself
– Manipulation - recognition that
something will happen to the
character in the story which will
teach the reader a lesson about
or herself
him
Strategies for building consistency
include:
Structure - the way the various parts of a story
relate to each other and form
patterns; structure depends on
repetition and variation of the
same or similar elements
Focalization - the position of the
person who sees and understand
the events being described in
the story (this is different from
the person who is telling the story)
Strategies for building consistency
include:
Point of view - the perspective from which a
story is told; implied speaker - the person who is
telling the story and whose personality is
suggested by the words of the text
– First-person narrator - the person who is
telling the story is relaying events he or
she personally experienced; could be a
character in the story or a participant in
the action of the story who never really
appears as a character in the story itself; "I"
– Third-person narrator - the person who is
telling the story is someone separate from
the events taking place; "he," "she"
Consistency-building within the text as
a whole
Stories tend to have two plots at once: the series
of actions that make up the events the story
narrates and the series of actions that make up
the narration of those events:
– Discourse - how a story is told: some events in great
detail, some events in brief mention, some events in
flashback; the order and detail of events in the
discourse affects how the reader understands the
events of the story.
Consistency-building within the text as
a whole
– Trajectory - the path of the discourse through the
story; this is the order in which the author chooses to
inform us of what is or has been going on in the story;
the order in which the story is revealed to the reader
affects how the reader understand the events of the
story.
Deconstructing
Children’s
Literature
Approaches
to reading a
text (Literary
Criticism)
Methods of deriving meaning from
collected words [on a page]
Reader-Response Approach
– Prior to the reader-response approach, it was
believed the text itself held all
components of meaning and
the reader was to discover that
meaning in reading.
– Today we acknowledge that
each reader brings his/her
own background and understandings
to a text and meaning is derived,
in part, through what the reader brings to the reading.
Methods of deriving meaning from
collected words
– The reader-response approach attempts to account
for the differences in interpretations by seeing the
reader and the text as equal partners in the
interpretative process. That is, the text is the stimulus
which recalls in the reader past experiences and
other texts, permitting one to give meaning to the
other.
– As experiences and exposure
to other literature occur between
re-readings of a text, meaning
from one reading to another
is transactional.
Methods of deriving meaning from
collected words
Historical Approach
– How the period in which a work was written
influenced the work itself.
– The effect of external political,
social, and intellectual
influences on literature.
– How these influences affect
writings about an earlier period
or future time.
– The historical context can help
in the understanding of a work
and vice versa.
Methods of deriving meaning from
collected words
Psychoanalytical Approach
– Examines the work in relationship
to its author.
– Probes the unconscious of the
characters, to determine what
their actions really reveal about them.
– Carl Jung, a student of Freud, believed each person held, in his
or her unconscious, archetypes--repeated patterns and images
of human experience--which emerge in literature. The
archetypes include the changing seasons, the cycle of birth,
death, rebirth, the heroic quest, the beautiful temptress, etc.
– The danger in the psychoanalytical approach is in
seeing a symbol in every object or act.
Methods of deriving meaning from
collected words
Feminist Approach
– How gender affects a literary work, its writer, and its
reader.
– The major concern is male bias in literature.
– The feminist approach is a cultural criticism of how
societal norms and attitudes influence subgroup (e.g.
female, male) behavior.
Methods of deriving meaning from
collected words
Formalist Approach
– A literary work should be
analyzed for meaning apart
from the values or beliefs
of the author or reader.
– A literary work should be
analyzed for its architecture
(for example, rising and
falling of the action; foreshadowing
of event to come; use of language and metaphor).
Purpose of Criticism--sense-making,
understanding, and pleasure in reading
Elements of Literature
[point of view]
Point of view - who is telling the story
First-Person -- "I"; the narrator is usually a
character (major or minor) in the story
Omniscient -- the narrator knows the thoughts and
actions of anyone in the story at any time and any
place
Limited (or third-person) -- told
from the point of view of a single
character but that character is
not the narrator; "he," "she"
Elements of Literature
[setting]
Setting - time, geographical place, general
environment and circumstance of the
story.
– Some texts rely heavily on the setting to establish the
feeling or environment of places, especially places
unfamiliar to the reader.
– Some texts can exist with a
very minimal setting (folktales
have minimal settings, allowing
the story to be easily transported
and adapted to other times and places).
Elements of Literature
[characters]
Characters
– Principal characters in a story are:
the protagonist
– hero or heroine
– main character with whom the reader is
expected to sympathizes
the antagonist
– villain
– character who works against the protagonist
Elements of Literature
[characters]
Characters are expected to be properly
motivated (have believable reasons for
their actions)
– Types of characters:
Flat and Round Characters
Static and Dynamic Characters
– static character - remains essentially the same
throughout the story and has no noticeable development
[flat or round character]
– dynamic character - undergoes some important character
transformation during the course of the story [always a
round character]
Elements of Literature
[characters]
Foil Characters - possess personality traits
opposite to those of another character, often the
main character.
– Foil characters can set off, make more visible, traits of
other characters.
Elements of Literature
[characters]
Character Development - the means the author
uses to tell us about a character:
– the narrator
– other characters in the story telling/talking about them
– what the character says in dialogue
– the actions of the character
Character Consistency - fictional
characters behave in ways
consistent with their nature
as presented in the story.
Internationalism in Children’s
Literature
Three important aspects of
internationalism in children's literature:
– Development of printed and visual materials in areas of the world
which have until recently had a primarily oral literature and the
development of opportunities for children to experience these
materials, such as in libraries and
cultural centers;
– Exchange of children¹s books from
one country to another, either in
original form or in translation; and
– The way different cultures are
depicted and represented in the
children's books of any given country.
Internationalism in Children’s
Literature
Printed and visual materials infusing oral literature
– Considerations
Is there improvement
in the extent of children's
literature published in
countries with an
oral-based literature?
Has the quality and quantity
of children's literature
improved in countries
with modest amounts
of printed and visual literature for children?
Internationalism in Children’s
Literature
Viewed globally, worldwide production of children’s
books are concentrated in North American, European,
and Japanese literatures for children.
– For young children to whom books must be read aloud, there is
little indigenous publishing in Africa, Latin America and the
Caribbean, and Asia--outside of Japan.
– Brazil, India, Turkey, and Venezuela recently began improving
the quantity, quality, and availability of books for young children.
– China even more recently has begun an effort to upgrade the
quantity and quality of picture books.
Internationalism in Children’s
Literature
– Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Kenya,
Pakistan, and the Philippines have increased
primarily the quantity of books available in
the middle and upper primary grades and a
little of the quality.
– Mass-market materials in all areas of
children's literature are imported primarily
from Italy, Japan, Spain, and the United
States. Many areas of the world must learn
to read in non-native languages in order to
borrow a written literature, especially for
children. These materials do not meet the
total reading needs of the cultures which
borrow them.
Exchange of materials between
countries
Between 1968 and 1981, only 12 direct translations or
adaptations of children's books came to the United
States from developing areas: 5 from Iran, 3 from
Greece, 2 from Nigeria, and one each from Brazil and
Puerto Rico.
During this same time, seven authors from developing
areas were not published in their home countries but had
books appear directly in English: 3 from Vietnam, 2 from
Jamaica, and one each from South Africa and Thailand.
Exchange of materials between
countries
European artists fled to the United States
between and after the two World Wars. This
group was a major force in the
"internationalizing" of U.S. children’s books up to
1960.
Immigration of European artists has been
replaced with the immigration of
artists from Asia and
Latin America.
Fictional and factual representation [by U.S.
publications] of other cultures
It has been pointed out that American authors,
when writing about other countries, tend to focus
only on child characters from lower
socioeconomic groups, whereas non-American
authors describe a much wider range of
characters.
Fictional and factual representation [by U.S.
publications] of other cultures
In trying to establish the validity of fictional and folkloric
materials, the following questions might be helpful:
– Was the material created by a participant of the culture or by an
observer of it? Is this made clear in the introductory material?
– Has it been edited to remove all elements which are morally or
socially not accepted in our society or have some of the intrinsic
values of the society concerned been allowed to remain intact,
e.g., polygamy, matter-of-fact acceptance of body functions,
early marriage or love relationships?
– If it is historical, is this clearly
indicated?
– If it is folkloric, is the source
clearly identified?
Fictional and factual representation [by U.S.
publications] of other cultures
In evaluating illustrations, photographs, or films, the following
questions might be helpful:
– Is there obvious stereotyping, such as always depicting Chinese
children with pigtails, Mexican children barefoot and with burros, etc.?
– Are the facial characteristics of any race almost always the same,
without regard for the fact that there are infinite varieties within all
races?
– Is the comparative wealth or poverty of a nation or people illustrated
with honesty or is it exaggerated?
– Is there over emphasis on rural or village life with no proportionate
attention to urban life?
– Are the unusually different customs depicted more
for their shock value than as illuminations of parts
of the total structure of the culture?
Fictional and factual representation [by U.S.
publications] of other cultures
In evaluating factual materials, the following
questions might be helpful:
– What is the copyright date? Does this limit the
usability of the work?
– If the copyright date is recent,
do geographical and political
facts truly reflect the latest changes?
– Whose point of view is
represented--the insider or the
outsider or both?
– What kind of sources are given?
Children’s Literature and Diversity
Some authors use "multicultural" and "cultural diversity"
as the broader topic covering racial/ethnic diversity and
social diversity. Other authors use "multicultural" and
"cultural diversity" for racial and ethnic diversity and
"social diversity" for other diversities.
Both the text and pictures of
American children's literature
over the years preserves a history
of the biases, misunderstandings,
fascinations, and melting-pot
ethos of our dominant culture.
Children’s Literature and Diversity
The study of history of children's literature
provides a way of increasing awareness of
the ways biases, misunderstandings, and
ethos creep into children¹s books to
potentially reinforce problems which already
exist in society.
Collections today should reflect the diversity
of the communities they serve as well as
the diversity of the cultures of the country
and the world.
Books today should strive for accuracy and
honesty in representing individuals and
groups
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Child Development