LINKING LITERATURE WITH LEARNING

KAY E. VANDERGRIFT

Special Interest Page

A circle of sharing

Cyber library

 

 

As young people participate in the educational innovations which will prepare them for successful lives in the 21st century, one of the key things teachers and school library media specialists can do is to integrate literature across the curriculum. New forms of resource-based instruction and other changes in contemporary schooling exemplify the need for such integration. The vision which informs the educational perspective represented here is one that emphasizes multiple resources and multiple meanings. It attempts to push back the boundaries of narrowly conceived and confined content that relies on textbooks, curriculum guides, and few, if any, reference tools, journals, and trade books. It recognizes an obligation to be gender fair, multiculturally diverse, and respectful of alternative ideas, information, and opinions. It also recognizes that young people learn best in communities of caring adults who assist them in the learning process at home, in the school, in the public library, and in other local institutions. Most importantly, it believes in students as thoughtful human beings who can, and will, study, question, think about, and discuss the broadest possible range of perspectives on various topics.

Classroom teachers and school library media specialists have the opportunity to improve the range, the depth, and the quality of learning experiences for students at all levels of schooling by finding the best connections between the curriculum and the widest variety of resources. It is the library media specialist's responsibility to be informed about curriculum developments at the national, state, regional, and local levels and to work with teachers to help students master the content of that curriculum. One of the ways to accomplish this is to go beyond the usual booklists, pathfinders, bibliographies, and the like to produce various types of publications demonstrating rich linkages of literature to curriculum topics. The intent of this page is to offer suggestions for that process and to encourage school personnel to think through such linkages as models of ways of matching student/teacher needs to the specific requirements of curricular content.

School personnel also need to work closely with public librarians to insure that students find the resources and the assistance required to complete assignments outside of the school setting. Although we often think of the school library media center as being curriculum-based and the public library as primarily for the recreational reading of young people; it is obvious that, in most communities, much school work is completed in the public library. Cooperation between these two institutions is essential to meet the needs of young learners.

 

PRODUCING LINKS OF LITERATURE ACROSS THE CURRICULUM

Select a topic directly connected to the curriculum. Identify key areas within that topic, either those that are common in a given grade level or those that might pose difficulties for students seeking materials. Identify the place of that topic both within the discipline and within the particular curriculum. Study curriculum guides, textbooks, or other teaching guides to determine materials that both support the curriculum as designated and present viable alternative views.

Verify definitions of terms used in the curriculum topic.

Provide resources that represent various media, cultures, and points of view, including feminist and international perspectives.

Identify information sources for adult learning facilitators.

Identify informational narratives for students, including biographies and autobiographies. Some of these may be identical to the resources selected for teachers, particularly at the secondary level.

Identify imaginative treatments of the topic in all media. Include novels, plays, short stories, and poetry.

Provide a rationale for the items selected.

Design the appropriate format and distribution system. This might include the use of network distribution to others throughout an electronic community of educators.

Provide suggestions for use.

 

CONSIDERATIONS IN LINKING LITERATURE TO CURRICULUM

Interpretations of an issue or topic may differ over time and/or in different media.

Although it may be easier to identify materials related to the social studies curriculum because bibliographic control is more extensive, it is also more difficult to be aware of sensitive political and cultural factors.

Specialized bibliographic tools often attempt to be inclusive and, therefore, may not be sufficiently critical about the items included.

Intellectual freedom may be a factor, particularly in dealing with controversial issues or topics. Read Delfattore, Joan. What Johnny Shouldn't Read. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992. Note that the sophisticated level of curricula content in secondary education is complemented by fictional works with equally sophisticated treatments of human concerns and relationships.

It is frequently difficult to determine how much should be included. Often, it is better to be brief rather than exhaustive.

Include artifacts, models, and other realia where appropriate.

Identify curriculum materials from other schools or associations that might be useful in your school.

Determine the most appropriate formatting to encourage use.

 

LEARNING LOGS

One way of evaluating the learning process is to encourage students to keep learning logs in which they monitor their own progress as well as share ideas and concerns with adults who care about them and their success in school. For a particular learning activity, for instance, students might begin by raising questions such as:

What do I already know?

What do I want/need to know?

How can I find out?

How can I be certain I've done my best work?

As the learning process continues, students use the log to record thoughts, ideas, questions, comments, and feelings that may guide further work, empowering them to track and evaluate their own learning. Student responses in these logs are also shared with parents, teachers, and librarians who assist them in finding, selecting and evaluating resources, organizing ideas, and presenting their work in appropriate formats. Analysis of the logs allows adults to access student learning styles and strategies and to help young people build on personal strengths to improve learning. If these logs are to be useful, both to the learner and to adults; it is essential that students are free to select their own medium and format. The selection of notebook, cards, or computer is itself an indicator of learning style. The logs may also become part of more inclusive learning portfolios which contain samples of learning products and video records of student performances. By recording questions and concerns as they arise, rather than waiting for interaction with a teacher, learners can go on with their work, assured that whatever assistance is required will be available in a timely fashion. Perhaps most important is the possibility that caring adults will understand students' attitudes toward and feelings about schooling that may either enhance or impede learning.

 

ARTICLES REFLECTIVE OF DIFFERENT LINKAGES TO LEARNING

As well as reading our own professional journals and selection aids, teachers and school library media specialists should monitor other educational publications for current curriculum directions. Often these journals will contain articles which demonstrate links between resources and curriculum content. The sampling of articles represent alternative approaches to linking literature across the curriculum and might serve as models for our task.

Bieger, Elaine Mindich. "Promoting Multicultural Education Through a Literature-Based Approach," The Reading Teacher. Vol. 49, No. 4 (December1995/January 1996): 308-312.

Blenz-Clucas, Beth. "History's Forgotten Heroes," School Library Journal. Vol. 39, #3 (March 1993): 118-123.

Cai, Mingshui. "A Balanced View of Acculturation: Comments on Lawrence Yep's Three Novels," Children's Literature in Education. Vol. 23, # 2 (June 1992): 107-118.

Campbell, Susan. "Purple Cows and Choices in Art Education: Literature of the Visual Arts," in Ways of Knowing: Literature and the Intellectual Life of Children. ed. by Kay E. Vandergrift. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996, pp. 51-88.

Carey-Webb, Allen. "Homelessness and Language Arts: Contexts and Connections," English Journal. Vol. 80, # 7 (November 1991): 22-28.

Chang, Margaret A. "Chinoiserie in American Picture Books: Excursions to Cathay," School Library Journal. Vol. 40, #4 (April 1994): 42-43.

Chatterjee, Jayashree. "Investing Grief with Dignity: Eve Bunting's The Wall and Evelyn Coerr's Sadako Books," in Ways of Knowing: Literature and the Intellectual Life of Children. Ed. by Kay E. Vandergrift. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996, pp. 233-257.

Chatton, Barbara and Shirley. "The Depression Years," Book Links. Vol. 2, #3 (January 1993): 31-37.

Clark, Elizabeth C. "Missing in Action: Confederate Females in Civil War Novels," Lion and the Unicorn. Vol.15, # 2 (December 1991): 15-26.

Clawson, Becky. "Using Hypercard in Teaching Fine Art Appreciation," Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science. Vol. 16 (December/January 1990): 14-15.

Combs, Martha and John D. Beach. " Stories and Storytelling: Personalizing Social Studies," The Reading Teacher. Vol. 47, #6 (March 1994): 464-471.

Crowell, Caryl Gottlieb "Creating Linguistic Diversity" in Language Arts Volume 75, #3 (March 1998): 228-235.

Edelman, Marion Wright. "Excerpt from Letter from her and the Children's Defense Fund"

Estes, Glenn E. "Stamps With Spirit: Human Endeavors in Postal Art," Book Links. Vol. 2, #3 (January 1993): 17-20.

Fisher, Kathleen M. "Semantic Networking: The New Kid on the Block," Journal of Research in Science Teaching. Vol. 27 (December 20, 1990): 1001-18.

Freedman, Russell. "Bring 'Em Back Alive: Writing History and Biography for Young People," School Library Journal. Vol. 40, #3 (March 1994): 138-141.

Guice, Sherry and others. "Access?: Books, Children, and Literature-Based Curriculum in Schools," The New Advocate. Vol. 9, No. 3 (Summer 1996): 197-207.

Guy-Sheftall, Beverly. "Review Essay: Essays on the Struggles Against Racism and Sexism" in The New York Times December 21, 1997

Hannigan, Jane Anne and Hilary Crew. "A Feminist Paradigm for Library and Information Science" in Wilson Library Bulletin Volume 68, No. 2 (October 1993):28-32.

Kawabata, Ariko and Kay E. Vandergrift. "History Into Myth: The Anatomy of a Picture Book" in Bookbird: A Journal of International Children's Literature Volume 36, No. 2 (Summer 1998): 6-12.

Leal, Dorothy. "Storybooks, Information Books and Informational Storybooks: An Explication of the Ambiguous Gray Genre," The New Advocate. Vol.6, # 1 (Winter 1993): 61-70.

Louie, Ai-Ling. "Growing Up Asian American: A Look At Some Recent Young Adult Novels," Journal of Youth Services in Libraries. Vol. 6, # 2 (Winter 1993): 115-127.

Louie, Ai-Ling. "Asian Americans and Images of Integration" in Ways of Knowing Kay E. Vandergrift, Ed. (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996, 321-342.)

Lynch-Brown, Carol. "Translated Children's Books: Voyaging to Other Countries," The Reading Teacher. Vol. 4, #7 (March 1991): 486-492.

McKeown, Margaret G. and Isobel L. Beck. "The Assessment and Characterization of Young Learners' Knowledge of a Topic in History," American Educational Research Journal. Vol. 27 (Winter 1990): 688-726.

Meek, Margaret. "The Critical Challenge of the World in Books for Children," Children's Literature in Education. Vol. 26 (March 1995): 5-23.

Miles, Margaret. "Are You There, Gods? It's Me, Margaret: Mythology for Young Adults," VOYA. Vol. 13, # 5 (December 1990): 265-267.

Neal, Judith C. and Kay Moore. "The Very Hungry Caterpillar Meets Beowulf in Secondary Classrooms," Journal of Reading. Vol. 35, # 4 (December/January 1992): 290-296.

Nobles, Connie H and Shirley B. McDonald. "Equity Under the Microscope: Forgotten Women in Math & Science," School Library Journal. Vol. 42 (January 1996): 28-31.

Obbink, Laura Apol. "Feminist Theory in the Classroom: Choices, Questions, Voices," English Journal. Vol. 81, # 7 (November ): 38-43.

Parker, Farris J. "Establishing Roots: African-American Images, Past and Present," in Mosaics of Meaning: Enhancing the Intellectual Life of Young Adults through Story. Ed. by Kay E. Vandergrift. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996, pp.251-281.

Pierce, Meredith Ann. "Out of This World: Science Fiction Booktalks for the Adolescent as Public Library Sponsored Programs in the Schools," VOYA. Vol.14, #3 (August 1991): 148-158.

Rankin, Virginia. "Get Smart: The Crucial Link Between Media Specialists and Student Projects," School Library Journal. Vol. 42, No. 8 (August 1996): 22-26.

Reese, Debbie "Mom, Look! It's George, and He's a TV Indian!"" in Horn Book Volume 74, #5 (September/October 1998): 636-643.

Reimer, Kathryn Meyer, "Multiethnic Literature: Holding Fast to Dreams," Language Arts. Vol. 69, #1 (January 1992): 14-21.

Reiser, Lynn "Going from But to And: Challenges in Creating a Pair of Picture Books from Different Cultures" in Horn Book Volume 74, #5 (September/October 1998): 578-586.

"Theme: Multiculturalism and the Language Arts" Language Arts. Vol. 70, #3 (March 1993): 156-229.

Van Ausdall, Barbara Wass. "Books Offer Entry into Understanding Cultures," Educational Leadership. Vol. 51, #8 (May 1994): 32-35.

Vandergrift, Kay E. "And Bid Her Sing: The Poetry of African-American Women," School Library Journal. Vol. 40, #2 (February 1994): 30-34.

Vandergrift, Kay E. "A Feminist Research Agenda in Youth Literature," Wilson Library Bulletin. Vol. 68, #2 (October 1993): 23-27.

Vandergrift, Kay E. "Female Protagonists and Beyond: Picture Books for Future Feminist," The Feminist Teacher. Vol. 9, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 1995): 61-69.

Vandergrift, Kay E. "Literacies of Inclusion: Feminism, Multiculturalism and Youth," Journal of Professional Studies. Vol. 3, No. 1 (Fall/Winter 1995): 39-47.

Vandergrift, Kay E. "Reconstructing the Study of World War II for Gender Equity" in Knowledge Quest Volume 26, No.4 (May/June 1998):38-43.

Vandergrift, Kay E., Ed. Ways of Knowing: Literature and the Intellectual Life of Children. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996.

Vandergrift, Kay E., Ed. Mosaics of Meaning: Enhancing the Intellectual Life of Young People Through Story. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1996.

Vandergrift, Kay E. and Jane Anne Hannigan. "Reading Images: Videos in the Library and Classroom," School Library Journal. Vol. 39, #1 (January 1993): 20-25.

Whitin, David J. "Explore Mathematics Through Children's Literature," School Library Journal. Vol.38, #8 (August 1992): 24-28.

Entered September 28, 1995 and is continuously revised
SCILS, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey