Posted in Children's Literature Series

Children’s Books as an Opening to Challenging Discussions.

A Child’s Bookshelf

Observing an active toddler at mealtime reveals a ritual of comings and goings. This process begins with a few nibbles snatched from an artfully arranged plate before rushing away to play with a coveted toy and then returning again. In many ways, a child’s readiness to digest discussions with grownups is similar. Children come to their grownups with questions and at times with heavy interrogation. Sometimes a simple phrase is enough. Sometimes they need more. When they continue to wonder, they return again and again to ask questions.

At times, life presents us with moments that are difficult but urgent to discuss. A child’s experience of these moments differs from adults. It can be linked to development, temperament, experience and so much more. So, how do we invite conversations in the bite sized nibbles they fancy? How do we garner an understanding of the child’s experience, emotion or readiness? How can we meet the child, right where they are and then scaffold to provide the support necessary?

Dewey’s age old reminder that we start “where the learner is in time, place, culture, and development,” the philosophy suggests that once children are exposed to reading, the decoding process has more meaning for them if they find what they read to be attractive.”

Rebeca J. Lukens. A Critical Handbook of Children’s Literature. New York: Pearson, 2007

This series, ‘Children’s Literature’ will introduce the practice of using literature as a provocation for conversation and as an window into a child’s understanding. The posts will cover the process from open-ended discussion tactics to the art of book selection. In addition, the series will review classic and new children’s literature as it relates to the challenging topics such as:

  • separation
  • illness
  • starting school
  • worries/anxiety
  • fire
  • poverty
  • diversity
  • death
  • darkness
  • emotion
  • new siblings
  • loneliness
  • being different
  • imagination
  • bullies
  • and so much more

A range of books will be introduced and discussion questions for children will be included. The books introduced here are by no means the only options available. Any book can be an invitation, simply read it and then ask: “what did you notice?” It’s is an incredible and non-directive way engage a child and open the door to their own story.

Stay tuned for posts on sourcing books, the art of book selection, using technology to engage readers and discussions about the value of unhappy or unfinished endings. These and more will be filed under the ‘Children’s Literature Series.’

*Requests for books related to specific topics can be left in the comments.

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