Children’s Literature Professor Suzanne Keen
Spring 2011 Class hours MTW 2-5 pm. No class Thursday and Friday.


I heard about this course from somebody who took it in the 6 week spring term. How is it different? Now worth 4 credits rather than 3 credits, Children's Literature has changed. It requires a service learning component and everyone takes the final examination. It meets more frequently than before and it has one fewer paper (still, you should expect to write a short paper each week). It is now limited to 15 students.

I am a future teacher. How should I claim my place in Children's Lit?
With the new course-based Registration system, you can try for oneof the spaces open to your year when you register.

I just want to take the course for an elective; how do I get in?
That's fine. Just sign up as normal.

I need the course to graduate; can you help me?
No one should leave a graduation requirement for his or her final spring term.

I am an English major; don't I get preferential treatment? Sorry! English majors get preferential admission to 300-level courses, not 200-levels.

Children’s literature has often been invested with the duty of inculcating virtues, values, and morality into young readers. Does reading fiction really work this way in real children? In a historical, anthology-based study of children’s literature, the course investigates the relationship between children’s literary reading and character formation. In the course, students consider questions from literary, psychological, and pedagogical perspectives. Beginning with tools for teaching literacy (primers, alphabets, and readers), students examine children’s literature in historical and cultural context, debating appropriateness and effectiveness for pedagogy. For instance, are unedited classical myths (full of sex and violence) good tools for teaching character, as advocates of cultural literacy have argued? Do the gender stereotypes in many fairy tales accidentally teach girl readers invidious ideas about their roles in society and in relationships? Should myths and fairy tales be censored, expurgated, or revised? Do modern versions correct these problems? Can children’s literature be used to promote contemporary values, such as tolerance, or do unruly literary texts and unpredictable child readers escape adult intentions? Observations from students’ optional12-hour service learning placements will supplement our discussion of course texts. Weekly response papers of 1000 words each engage students with secondary texts representing a variety of perspectives about the function of children’s literature. Appropriate for students in the Teacher Education program and FDR HL. Course website at

Course Objectives in English

Students in English will learn how to
1. write clear, persuasive analytical essays driven by arguments about texts;
2. read closely, recognizing subtle and complex differences in language use;
3. seek out further knowledge about literary works, authors, and contexts, and document research appropriately, adhering to the highest standards of intellectual honesty;
4. broaden the range of literary texts and performances from which they can derive pleasure and edification.

Some of the Required Primary Texts:

Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games. Scholastic. ISBN-13: 978-0439023528. See the author's website:
Lois Lowry, Number the Stars, Laurel Leaf , ISBN-13: 978-0440227533. See the author's website:
Gary Paulsen, Hatchet, Aladdin. ISBN-13: 978-1416936473. See the author's website:
Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief, Miramax, ISBN-13: 978-0786838653. See the author's website:
Jerry Spinelli, Milkweed, Laurel Leaf, ISBN-13: 978-0440420057. See the author's website:
Sara Zarr, Story of a Girl, Little, Brown, ISBN-13: 978-0316014540. See the author's blog:
Jack Zipes, The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature, Norton, ISBN 13: 978-0393327762. See student web companion to the anthology:

Recommended Secondary Texts and Links (books will be on library reserve):

Holly Blackford, Out of this World, Teacher’s College Press. ISBN-13: 978-0807744666
Nel Noddings, Educating Moral People, Teacher's College Press, ISBN-13: 978-0807741689. Nel Noddings links:
Fairy Tale Controversies: read this web page.
Larry Nucci, Education in the Moral Domain, Cambridge UP, ISBN-13: 978-0521655491. Website: /
National Endowment for the Arts, To Read or Not to Read, pdf version

Requirements: Failure of a single assignment indicates weakness, but if the student passes the course, he or she has been judged competent by the professor in the four stated course objectives.

20%     participation and attendance
20%     formal paper #1, 1000-1200 words
20%     formal paper #2, 1000-1200 words
10%     literacy narrative, 1000-1200 words
20%     formal paper #3; literacy-teaching narrative and documentation of 12 hours of service learning, 1000-1200 words.
10%     objective final examination. Failure of the examination with a grade of 59 or lower results in the E grade (conditional failure). See the regulations governing removal of E grades in the course catalog.

Service Learning Project, volunteering in the community in literacy related work (elementary schools, Rockbridge Regional Library). 12 hour expectation. Contact service learning coordinator Linda Cummings. Dedicated and responsible service (meeting your commitments) is required to pass the course.

Walking directions to Waddell Elementary School:
Take Lee Avenue past Blue Sky Bakery, past the post office on your right, the international house on your left, until it dead ends on McDowell Street. Take a right onto McDowell, and your next left onto Jackson Ave. Follow Jackson- go straight past White street and take your next right. You will see Waddell in front of you about a block away. Go in the main door that faces the parking lot in front.

Driving Directions to Fairfield Elementary:
20 Fairfield School Road | Fairfield | VA 24435. Take Rt 11 past Wal Mart and follow it straight to Fairfield. You will pass the drive-in movie theater, I-81 highway entrances (exit 195), and Maple Hall. School will be on your right about 10 minutes away from East Lex. Watch your speed as you enter Fairfield—the speed limit drops abruptly at the school.

Your paper prompts will arrive by email and they will also be posted in the schedule of the Sakai course web page.