Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Literacy Selection: How "Real" Should Our Choices Be?

Through literature, do we want to be teaching children the way that the world should be, or should we expose them to the sometimes very sad, harsh realities? Linnea Hendrickson, a professor from the University of New Mexico posed this same question in her brief article titled "The World as It Is, or As It Should Be?" Many of us remember growing up with stories of white picket fences and a "perfect" family with two children where the father goes to work and the mother stays home, but is this the perception that we want to give to our children? If a child is in a different home situation, will these literature selections make them feel like something is wrong with them?

I was just recently exposed to a children's picture book titled "Fly Away Home" about a young boy and his father and their caring relationship. Sounds nice right? But the truth is, is that this story, narrated by the son, is about a homeless father and son who live in the airport. The reader experiences the grief that the family has that results from this very difficult life. It can bring up questions and thoughts in the classroom that the children may not be ready for. Or are they ready?

We need to take the time to evaluate the choices that we make for the literature that our children are being exposed to and always have conversation about seemingly perfect stories or ones that portray difficult situations. Conversation is the key about making these stories meaningful.

In the conclusion of Hendrickson's article she says, "I suspect what the best books give us, and what we need, is a little bit of both, even though we do not always agree on'what is' or on 'waht should be.'"


  1. This is such a beautiful, thought-provoking, blog post. It is good to make connections from other sources (like x460). The question, "do we want to be teaching children the way that the world should be, or should we expose them to the sometimes very sad, harsh realities?" by Linnea Hendrickson, is one of my favorite questions ever posed. One's response to this question can really reflect on his or her teaching philosophy.

  2. I think that sometimes people have the tendency to want to keep children in a "perfect" world where nothing bad happens. Of course that is not the case, and children are very perceptive! Whether or not these topics are being brought up in the classroom, children are picking up on social issues in their life. It is good to incorporate some books that are true to life and real issues in the world that they live. Not only can this turn into critical literacy, but children will develop empathy and learn to ask questions and deal with their feelings about the things around them.

  3. You bring up an important question which is when are children ready to listen to and talk about deep subjects, and whose choice is it to decide when children are. This question is not easy to answer because of the numerous factors that play into answering these questions. There is what curriculum allows, what the parents believe is O.K. to read, whether the teacher believes it is O.K. to read, and most importantly the different individual children. It is something to think about and I feel it is one of those opportunities a teacher is never fully sure they will attempt until she actually does it.

  4. I really think that it is important that children are exposed to this kind of literature. I know that we may feel that they are too young, but as we have seen in head start, many children have gone through "adult like" hardships in their lives already. I think that it is important that we are educating young children about these issues so that they have a better understanding from a teacher who has their best interest at heart.