Teaching Children's Literature

It's Critical!

By Christine Leland, Mitzi Lewison, Jerome Harste

Routledge – 2013 – 244 pages

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    July 12th 2012
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This groundbreaking text offers a fresh perspective on how to implement children’s literature into and across the curriculum in ways that are both effective and purposeful. Honed over years of experience and reflection in classroom settings and rich with real examples of teachers implementing critical pedagogy, it invites multiple ways of engaging with literature that extend beyond the genre and elements approach and also addresses potential problems or issues that teachers may confront.

The book is structured around three ‘mantras’ that build on each other: Enjoy; Dig deeper; Take action. The practical strategies for taking a critical approach focus on issues that impact children’s lives, building from students‘ personal experiences and cultural knowledge to using language to question the everyday world, analyze popular culture and media, understand how power relationships are socially constructed, and consider actions that can be taken to promote social justice. This book teems with pedagogical purpose. It is smart, principled, and useful. Its freshness and currency will resonate with readers and inspire their teaching.

A Companion Website (www.routledge.com/cw/leland) enriches and extends the text.


Preface. Acknowledgments 1. Introduction 2. Why Reading Aloud is Crucial 3. Teaching Reading with Literature 4. Choosing Books: Diversity Counts 5. Supporting Literacy Discussions 6. Inquiry into the World through Focused Studies 7. Multimodal Responses to Literature 8. Language Study: Lingering in Text 9. Challenging the Challengers 10. Literature Response Strategies. References: Children’s and Adolescent Literature. References: Professional Publications. Index

Author Bio

Christine Leland is a Professor in the Department of Literacy, Culture, and Language Education in the Indiana University School of Education at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. She teaches courses in psycholinguistics, language education, children’s literature, reading methods, and critical literacy. Her book Creating Critical Classrooms (coauthored with Lewison and Harste, 2008) articulates a theory of critical literacy instruction and provides demonstrations of how critical practices can be enacted in elementary and middle school classrooms. Her interest in issues concerning the education of urban children, critical literacy and teacher education are reflected in her numerous journal articles and presentations. Her international work includes partnerships with universities in Kenya, Indonesia, and China. She has been recognized for teaching excellence a number of times, most recently in 2008 when she received the Frederic Bachman Lieber Memorial Award. This is a system-wide award that honors one faculty member each year from across Indiana University’s eight campuses.

Mitzi Lewison is a Professor in the department of Literacy, Culture, and Language Education at Indiana University. She teaches literacy methods courses in the elementary teacher education program, master’s level literacy and children’s literature courses, and doctoral seminars on issues in language education and critical literacy. Her current research focuses on investigating the problems and potential of using social justice curricula in elementary, middle, and college language classrooms. She is a three-time recipient of the Trustee’s Teaching Award in the School of Education. She has been the English Director of three projects in Afghanistan that were designed to help rebuild teacher education programs at 18 Afghan Universities and to start a master’s degree TESOL program. She is lead author of the book Creating Critical Classrooms: Reading and Writing with and Edge.

Jerome Harste is Professor Emeritus of Indiana University’s Department of Language, Literacy, and Culture where he held the distinction of being the first Armstrong Professor in Teacher Education. Jerry, as he is known to his friends, taught children’s literature, authored and published children’s books, and has been the president of several professional organization, including the National Council of Teachers of English. He sees himself as a specialist in the areas of teaching reading and writing, multiple ways of knowing, inquiry-based education, critical literacy, and curriculum.


This Companion Website for Teaching Children’s Literature: It’s Critical! provides additional materials to extend inquiry and support you in using children’s literature critically in your current or future classroom.

 Designed with both students and instructors in mind, the Companion Website features:

  • Annotations. Children’s and adolescent literature discussed in the book— including author, year of publication, title, publisher, type of book, and a summary of what each book is about
  • Text Sets. Collections of books and other resources that provide many different perspectives on tough social issues such as war, homelessness, bullying, racism, and homophobia.
  • Resources by Chapter. Handy links to  URLs and other resources mentioned in the book
  • Syllabi, Strategies, and Assignments. Examples meant as starting points, offered as “one possible way” rather than “the way” to do something
  • Additional Books and Other Resources

Our wish for this Website is that it will serve as a quick reference for experienced practitioners and a helping hand for those who are newer to the ideas shared in the book. Figuratively speaking, it is there to help you get your arms around a critical approach to teaching children’s literature.
—Chris Leland, Mitzi Lewison, Jerry Harste