Reynolds begins Children’s Literature: A Very Short Introduction by arguing that “… there is no single, coherent, fixed body of work that makes up children’s literature, but instead many children’s literatures produced at different times in different ways for different purposes by different kinds of people using different formats and media” (3). Take some time to digest her “definition,” or lack thereof. It can be a very helpful tool for learning to look at children’s literature analytically. Coats begins her own chapter, “Ideologies of Childhood and the History of Children’s Literature,” similarly by prefacing the constructed-ness of both literature for children and its evident histories. Stevenson does as well, writing in “History of Children’s and Young Adult Literature,” that “No genre history is simple and objective. Literary historians always face decisions about what’s worth noting and why, and what gets left out and why, and previous histories either mark their paths or provide a view they wish to counter” (179).

For your first Reading Response, put these three authors and their different histories of children’s literature into a conversation with each other. You can either choose to write about one historical aspect, event, or development that all three authors include in their histories, OR you may choose to write about one historical aspect, event, or development that only one author includes and that the other two authors “leave out” (to use Stevenson’s phrase). How does this one historical aspect, event, or development shape your understanding of the “history” of children’s literature?

Reading Responses

Almost every week, you will write a 250- to 300-word Reading Response to a paragraph-length question that corresponds to the topic(s) of the assigned readings. The questions will be listed under “Discussions” on Canvas. Your weekly responses must demonstrate, above all else, that you have read the assigned readings closely and thoughtfully. Please be very specific in your responses to the questions, referring to and citing specific scenes and/or passages as support. The format of your writing should follow MLA 8th-edition style (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.. Your submissions should be arranged with your name, correct week number, and word count in the top-left corner.

An excellent response is creative, surprising, and moves way beyond the obvious/literal/typical. It is direct, thorough, and clearly engages the question(s) asked. It uses abundant text-based evidence as support. And it is organized and coherent with no distracting mechanical errors (grammar/spelling/formatting). (For more information on grading, see the course grading rubric.) Some essentials to avoid in crafting your responses include:

Summary or Retelling Plot
Evaluation or Opinion (“This book is great because…” or “I believe/I think/I feel…”)
Moral Judgments (“That character should have been punished more because…”)
Authorial Intention (“The author didn’t expect her novel to be read by college students…”)
Speculating About Events that the Text Cannot Support
Appropriateness (“The book shows teens drinking, which is not appropriate behavior…”)
Generalizations (“The novel is too complicated for teens” or “Teens are self-centered.”)


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