It was sobering to learn that hundreds of studies have proven the link between the reading of stories and improved comprehension – and that such skills filter into some of the most basic of life skills (Haven, 2007). The ability to develop good relationships with others is an example. The the gift of reading also gives people the opportunity to step outside themselves, to feel in new ways, to visualise and to experience new people and places (Nodelman and Reimer, 2003). Put simply: it opens new worlds for people, while also allowing them to connect better with the world they do live in. As Winch (2010) points out, if we want to change the world, reading is a great place to start.
With the importance of literature and the ability to read being well established, as teacher librarians we have a responsibility to get literature of interest in front of our students. In doing so we must first recognise their differences in interests and abilities. As best we can we must cater to their strengths when it comes to literary learning to help instill a confidence in them. They need to believe it is for them and something to be enjoyed.
There are many ways to do this. Literature comes in many and various forms. Of course there are the more traditional physical books. Douglas Adams once likened these to sharks in that they were perfectly adapted to do their job and will therefore be around a long time (Gaiman, 2013). Who could argue with that? Perhaps Zipes (2009) is one, arguing that reading print does not meet the literacy learning needs of young people today. Such views are supported with the ongoing rise in popularity and growth of various forms of interactive literature (Madej, 2003). Madej (2003) adds that children are often fascinated by stories with interactive elements that are used to entertain, engage and educate them.
However the old adage that you have to give something up to get something is also true. For example, on the topic of digital resources, Uglow (2014) notes that when transferring forms of creative art from a physical to a digital environment all that is special and unique to that physical experience is simply lost. Put simply, books are objects in their own right – not just vessels (Uglow, 2014). They are something to hold and to own.
As teacher librarians we need to be constantly weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of literature formats. The same applies with different literature styles and genres. We need to support our choices with meaningful and insightful questions, as well as the techniques in which we use them to teach (Toner, 2011). There is no one size fits all, and perhaps more than anything else that is what has become most apparent to me in this unit. As with most things in life, balance and variety is the key. As is knowing your students, their interests and capabilities. Literature, and specifically fictional literature, can and should be enjoyed by all students. When appropriately matched to students they’ll be kept engaged, challenged and exposed to all that literature has to offer them for life. The best teacher librarians will find this match.
Gaiman, N. (2013). Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming
Haven, K. F. (2007). Story proof: The science behind the starting power of story. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Madej, K. (2003). Towards digital narrative for children: From education to entertainment, a historical perspective. ACM Computers and Entertainment.
Nodelman, P., & Reimer, M. (2003). The pleasures of children’s literature. (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Toner, G. (2011). An introduction to the Australian Curriculum. Connections, 76(1), 1-2. Retrieved fromhttp://www2.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/Connections76.pdf
Uglow, T. (2014). pBooks, eBooks, & dBooks: why we are hooked on books and bookness. Retrieved from http://www.tomu.co/words/aboutbooksthatcannotbeprinted
Winch, G. (2006). Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature. (3rd ed.). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Zipes, J. (2009). Misreading children and the fate of the book in Relentless progress the reconfiguration of children’s literature, fairy tales, and storytelling. London: Routledge.