LiteratureWriting

Literature & Writing

Children's Literature

Children's Writing

By Martha Crippen

Giving children access to all varieties of literature is extremely important for their success. Educators, parents, and community members should help students develop a love and passion for reading. Not only is reading literature important in developing cognitive skills to be able to succeed in a school or work setting, but it is valuable for other reasons as well. Although there are countless values in exposing children to literature, Donna Norton (2010) identifies the value of literature for young people in her book Through the Eyes of a Child. Children’s literature is important because it provides students with opportunities to respond to literature; it gives students appreciation about their own cultural heritage as well as those of others; it helps students develop emotional intelligence and creativity; it nurtures growth and development of the student’s personality and social skills; and it transmits important literature and themes from one generation to the next.

 From Time4Learning.com

Teaching Writing is an ongoing process, which Time4Learning facilitates in a number of ways.

Most people agree that writing skills are increasingly important and often not adequately taught. When writing is taught in schools, writing instruction often takes a backseat to phonics, handwriting skills, and reading comprehension.

Many homeschool parents find that teaching writing may be more challenging than other subjects where there is an answer key. Children can challenge their parent’s feedback.

Effective writing is a vital life-skill that is important in almost every subject in school as well in the work world. Additionally, standardized tests increasingly contain a writing component – – in some cases this includes a requirement to write an essay on a timed test!

The first value to note is that children’s literature provides students with the opportunity to respond to literature and develop their own opinions about the topic. This strengthens the cognitive developmental domain as it encourages deeper thought about literature. Quality literature does not tell the reader everything he/she needs to know; it allows for some difference in opinion. One reader may take something completely different away from the piece of literature than the next reader, based on the two personal viewpoints and experiences. Students can learn to evaluate and analyze literature, as well as summarize and hypothesize about the topic. Norton says that for children, “wordless picture books are excellent stimuli for oral and written language” (2010, p. 9). Students reading wordless books like A Ball for Daisy (Raschka, 2011), The Yellow Umbrella (Liu, 1987), or The Red Book (Lehmann, 2004) will be able to analyze the illustrations and develop their own dialogue for the story. This strengthens students’ cognitive functions in being able to form opinions on their own and to express themselves through language in summarizing the plot of a wordless book.

Writing Skills – What are they?

At first, many parents think that “learning to write” is primarily a question of grammar. They first think of teaching proper sentence construction, appropriate use of tenses, and punctuation. It is true that grammar is an important component of teaching writing. The Time4Learning system includes a superb set of lessons for teaching punctuation, vocabulary, word choice, spelling, paragraph structure and other components of “correct writing”. Try these demos.

But after a little thought, we find that while grammar is an important part of writing, effective writing requires much more. When a writing process is used to teach writing, students begin to understand writing as a form of communication. Furthermore, writing helps students recognize that they have opinions, ideas, and thoughts that are worth sharing with the world, and writing is an effective way of getting them out there!

There are many types (or modes) of writing such as descriptive writing, persuasive writing, informative writing, narrative writing, and creative or fiction writing. Many students are familiar with the basic writing assignments such as book reports, social studies reports, short stories, and essays on topics such as: “What I did on my summer vacation”. But these writing assignments should be thought of as applications of basic writing modes. For instance, a book report is usually a type of descriptive writing, and an essay on dinosaurs might include both informative and perhaps persuasive writing.

Second, children’s literature provides an avenue for students to learn about their own cultural heritage and the cultures of other people. It is crucial for children to learn these values because, “developing positive attitudes toward our own culture and the cultures of others is necessary for both social and personal development” (Norton, 2010, p. 3). In saying this, however, when teaching students about the cultural heritage of others, one should be very careful in selecting which books to recommend to young readers. There are many stories, some folktales, which contain blatant stereotypes and inaccuracies about certain cultural groups. This includes books such as Brother Eagle, Sister Sky (Jeffers, 1991), or The Rough-Face Girl (Martin, 1992). Both of these stories depict Native Americans in a misguided way and contain misinterpretations of what actually occurred in history. For example, the Iroquois tribe in The Rough-Face Girl (Martin, 1992) historically lived in longhouses, but the illustrator depicts these Native Americans as living in teepees. This is a clichéd view, and it can be very damaging in perpetuating stereotypes if we as adults are not cautious in the books we have in our classroom and home libraries. However, there are some children’s books that are more accurate in teaching the cultural differences of others. A story called “Eric” from Tales from Outer Suburbia (Tan, 2009) is a touching story about a family who takes in a foreign exchange student and must learn about their guest and accept the differences between their cultures. It has a positive message about encouraging acceptance of the cultural differences between people, which is something that we want to help nurture in our students. Another book that helps discuss culture is Going Home (Bunting, 1996), which is the story of a Mexican immigrant family with the children who were born in the U.S. There is a difference in what “home” is for the parents and the children, and when they take a trip to Mexico, the children realize how important their parent’s culture and homeland is for them. Many books are available that depict culture as an important piece of society that is to be treasured and valued, and those books can have great value for students.

Third, children’s literature helps students develop emotional intelligence. Stories have the power to promote emotional and moral development. Children’s literature “contains numerous moments of crisis, when characters make moral decisions and contemplate the reasons for their decisions,” an important skill for children to see modeled (Norton, 2010, p. 34). Guji Guji (Chen, 2004), for example, is a story about a crocodile who is adopted into a family of ducks. Ultimately he must choose between betraying his adopted family and going back to his own “species,” and he decides to remain true to his beliefs and not betray his family. The Scar (Moundlic, 2007) is an effective book to read with students in order to teach them about responding to grief, as it is about a boy whose mother dies. This requires a complex level of emotional intelligence, as many young children do not understand death. The topic of death would be more appropriate for an older grade level, but it is an important topic to discuss with students. Another book that encourages emotional intelligence is Selma (Bauer, 2002), which discusses what it takes for a young sheep to be happy. It is a philosophical story within a picture book, and challenges students to think about what happiness really is. The Big Box (Morrison, 1999) is a story about children who have their freedom taken away by being put into a box and the deeper problems that exist with not being given one’s freedom. Children’s literature encourages students to think deeper about their own feelings.

Children’s literature also encourages creativity. Norton stresses “the role that literature plays in nurturing and expanding the imagination” (2010, p. 4). The House in the Night (Swanson, 2008) depicts the creativity that a young girl has in her dreams at night, as she flies about the dark neighborhood on the wings of a bird. The Amazing Pop-up Music Book (Petty, 1999), Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin (Moss, 1995), and Look Closer: Art Masterpieces Through The Ages (Desnoettes, 2006) are imaginative and original books that encourage students to learn about music and art, and they are engaging in their design and interactivity. Children’s literature promotes the development of students’ internal imaginations.

Writing Skills – What are they?

At first, many parents think that “learning to write” is primarily a question of grammar. They first think of teaching proper sentence construction, appropriate use of tenses, and punctuation. It is true that grammar is an important component of teaching writing. The Time4Learning system includes a superb set of lessons for teaching punctuation, vocabulary, word choice, spelling, paragraph structure and other components of “correct writing”. Try these demos.

But after a little thought, we find that while grammar is an important part of writing, effective writing requires much more. When a writing process is used to teach writing, students begin to understand writing as a form of communication. Furthermore, writing helps students recognize that they have opinions, ideas, and thoughts that are worth sharing with the world, and writing is an effective way of getting them out there!

There are many types (or modes) of writing such as descriptive writing, persuasive writing, informative writing, narrative writing, and creative or fiction writing. Many students are familiar with the basic writing assignments such as book reports, social studies reports, short stories, and essays on topics such as: “What I did on my summer vacation”. But these writing assignments should be thought of as applications of basic writing modes. For instance, a book report is usually a type of descriptive writing, and an essay on dinosaurs might include both informative and perhaps persuasive writing.

The Writing Process: Prewriting, Writing, Revising, and Proofreading

The four steps of the writing process are: prewriting, writing, revising, and proofreading.

  • PreWriting – Whatever type of writing a student is attempting, the prewriting stage can be the most important. This is when students gather their information, and begin to organize it into a cohesive unit. This process can include reading, taking notes, brainstorming, and categorizing information. Prewriting is the most creative step and most students develop a preferred way to organize their thoughts. Stream of consciousness writing, graphic organizers, outlines, or note cards are popular techniques. Often this stage is best taught by a parent modeling the different methods, perhaps a different one each week until the student finds which one works best for him.
  • Writing -The actual writing stage is essentially just an extension of the prewriting process. The student transfers the information they have gathered and organized into a traditional format. This may take the shape of a simple paragraph, a one-page essay, or a multi-page report. Up until this stage, they may not be exactly certain which direction their ideas will go, but this stage allows them to settle on the course the paper will take. Teaching about writing can sometimes be as simple as evaluation good literature together, and exploring what makes the piece enjoyable or effective. It also involves helping a student choose topics for writing based on their personal interests. Modeling the writing process in front of your child also helps them see that even adults struggle for words and have to work at putting ideas together.
  • Revising , or editing is usually the least favorite stage of the writing process, especially for beginning writers. Critiquing one’s own writing can easily create tension and frustration. But as you support your young writers, remind them that even the most celebrated authors spend the majority of their time on this stage of the writing process. Revising can include adding, deleting, rearranging and substituting words, sentences, and even entire paragraphs to make their writing more accurately represent their ideas. It is often not a one-time event, but a continual process as the paper progresses. When teaching revision, be sure to allow your child time to voice aloud the problems they see in their writing. This may be very difficult for some children, especially sensitive ones, so allow them to start with something small, such as replacing some passive verbs in their paper with more active ones.
  • Proofreading – This is a chance for the writer to scan his or her paper for mistakes in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Although it can be tempting for parents to perform this stage of the writing process for the child, it is important that they gain proofreading skills for themselves as this improves a student’s writing over time. And because children want their writing to be effective, this can actually be the most opportune to teach some of the standard rules of grammar and punctuation. When students learn the rules of mechanics during the writing process they are much more likely to remember to use them in the future.

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