Reading Literature in Elementary Classrooms

Authored by: Kathy G. Short

Handbook of Research on Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Print publication date:  October  2010
Online publication date:  April  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415965057
eBook ISBN: 9780203843543
Adobe ISBN: 9781136913570

10.4324/9780203843543.ch4

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Abstract

Literature in elementary classrooms can be viewed as no more than filler that buys some free time or as a tool that sits alongside a skills worksheet. National policy trends lean heavily toward such limited visions of reading, and yet, as Kathy Short argues, it is possible to create practices of literary reading that support children’s interest in reading processes, enjoyment in personal reading, and engagement in critical inquiry about the representations and themes literature presents. If literature opens an inquiry into life, then teaching must follow the curiosity and compassion that students are capable of bringing to reading. In this exploration of literature’s place in reading education, Short recognizes the political forces that reduce reading to test scores, but provides a clear outline for framing literary reading in classrooms as vital to personal, communal, and intercultural understanding.

As a child, reading literature in the elementary classroom meant pulling a book surreptitiously from my desk when the teacher wasn’t watching. My second-grade teacher once caught me sliding out a book between spelling words on the weekly test and reprimanded me for not paying attention. I was paying attention—to what was compelling for me. My life as a reader was fed by the school library, not by reading books in the classroom. In fact, I don’t have memories of reading literature in school; my memories are of reading basal textbooks in round robin reading groups and completing comprehension cards to see who could get to the next color level first.

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