Literature

Literature forms a centrepiece to being a reader or a writer. It comprises texts, such as short stories, novels, poetry, prose, plays, film and multimodal texts. The pleasures and understandings afforded by engaged reading, interpreting, appreciating, evaluating and creating literature enable children to expand their ideas, think deeply and notice new things in their world.

Nodelman and Reimer (2003) identify multiple pleasures that children’s literature can provide, some of which are:

  • the pleasure of having one’s emotions evoked
  • the pleasure of the pictures and the ideas that words of texts evoke
  • the pleasure of finding a mirror for oneself
  • the pleasure of escape.

Hisham Matar (2017) has noted that literature, specifically, books “develop our emotional, psychological and intellectual life, and, by doing so, show us how and to what extent we are connected.” Far from being a passive activity, La Marca and Macintyre (2006) argue that rich reading of literary texts is “imaginatively, intellectually, emotionally challenging, demanding, comforting and consoling (p. 18)”. A key strand of both the Victorian and Australian Curriculum, literature benefits students on both personal and academic levels, with research consistently finding strong correlations between reading engagement and reading achievement.

Inclusive literature

EAL/D learners need to find themselves, their languages and cultures reflected in the books and resources used in class. At the same time, all learners ‘need to read other countries’ stories about national, personal and community identities to enlarge their cultural frames of reference and to reflect on how these stories share similarities and differences to their own’ (Mallan, 2014). Schools can promote inclusiveness for EAL/D students by including plurilingual (more than one language integrated) and multicultural literature in their classrooms and school libraries. Adam and Harper (2016) provide a useful checklist for selecting and evaluating multicultural picture storybooks that could be extended to other media.

When choosing texts, some considerations include whether:

  • the author is qualified to write about the culture(s) portrayed or has extensively researched the culture
  • the story is high quality, interesting and contains authentic language and accurate factual details (where appropriate)
  • the characters are believable, reflect universal themes and represent diverse groups of people
  • the cultural and geographical settings are realistic, accurate and reflect a variety of settings
  • the plot challenges assumed knowledge and presents opportunities for students to discuss and resolve conflicts
  • the theme allows for students to consider multiple perspectives and values
  • the illustrations avoid stereotypes and promote diversity
  • the story is developmentally appropriate. Can the students relate to and engage with the story? (Adam and Harper 2016).

This includes:

  • books about children with diverse cultures, for example, an Aboriginal student living between two different cultures
  • books about children living in different parts of the world
  • bilingual picture books
  • translations of popular books written in English, e.g. 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' or a Harry Potter novel
  • stories and other texts written and published by EAL/D students or plurilingual Australian authors
  • translations of books by EAL/D students, family members or community members.

For more information on inclusive literature, contact: The Languages and Multicultural Education Resource Centre (LMERC).

Reading Australia provides lists of literature such as:

Both the Australian Literacy Educators' Association and the Primary English Teaching Association of Australia (PETAA) have units of work around multilingual and plurilingual texts, book reviews as well as teacher references on teaching EAL/D students effectively.

For information on digital storybooks with multilingual elements, see:

Teaching literature

Classroom teaching should incorporate:

  • dedicated classroom time for children to read, or be read to, and to discuss their reading
  • opportunities for children to be read to, to read with others, and to read by themselves
  • opportunities for children to respond to what they read in a variety of ways.

Evidence base

The links between engaged, regular reading of literature and student achievement are well established in the research literature.  Large scale international assessments such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) – both administered through the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – reveal strong correlations between reading engagement and reading achievement.  These international studies reveal that Australian students – at both primary and secondary school level – are less engaged and motivated in relation to reading than similar aged students in many other countries.  This has implications for issues of text selection, student voice and choice, and the ways reading is implemented in classrooms.  Many research studies (see for example, Guthrie, 2008; Graff, 2010) reveal that students can be more directly engaged (or re-engaged) with reading when:

  • they are given choices in what they read
  • the reading itself is valued (rather than, especially, written response)
  • classroom reading embraces both paper-based and online texts
  • and both private and social, dialogic dimensions of reading are emphasised.

The benefits of free voluntary reading – reading for reading’s sake – have been compellingly documented (Krashen, 2004, 2011) and student self-efficacy in reading has been shown to increase when students have the opportunity to choose texts of interest and relevance and share their responses and insights after reading with peers and teachers (Guthrie, 2008).

Research to practice

Classroom teaching that draws on these research imperatives should incorporate:

  • dedicated classroom time for students to read and discuss their reading
  • reading to, with and by: opportunities for students to be read to, to read with others (teachers and peers) and to read by themselves (independent reading)
  • opportunities for students to respond to what they read in a variety of ways (verbally, in writing, online, through the Arts, through taking action of some sort).

The instructional focus taken here to accommodate these imperatives is literature circles​

Reading interest survey

Understanding your students' reading habits and interests will help you to connect them to reading materials they enjoy as well as to texts which might expand their reading repertoire. 

For an example of a reading interests and habits questionnaire developed by Paul Molyneux and Pam Macintyre, see: Student Reading Interest and Habits Questionnaire (pdf - 47.38kb)

References

Adam, H. & Harper, L. (2016). Educating for Values and Diversity through Culturally Inclusive Children’s Literature. PETAA Paper 205.

Carle, E. (2002). The Very Hungry Caterpillar. London, UK: Puffin Random House

Chambers, A. (1994). Tell me: Children, reading and talk.  Newtown, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association.

Daniels, H. (2002). Literature circles: Voice and choice in book clubs and reading groups. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Daniels, H. (2006). What’s the next big thing with literature circles? Voices from the Middle, 13, (4), 10-15.

Gallagher, K. (2009). Readicide: How schools are killing reading and what you can do about it. Portland, ME: Stenhouse. 

Graff, J.M. (2010). Reading, readin’, and skimming: Preadolescent girls navigate the sociocultural landscapes of books and reading. Language Arts, 87 (3), 177-187.

Guthrie, J. T. (Ed.) (2008). Engaging adolescents in reading. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. 

Keene, E. O., & Zimmerman, S. (2007). Mosaic of thought: The power of comprehension strategy instruction. (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Krashen, S. (2004). The power of reading : insights from the research. Westport, CN: Libraries Unlimited.

Krashen, S. (2011). Free voluntary reading. Westport, CN: Libraries Unlimited.

La Marca, S. & Macintyre, P. (2006). Knowing readers: Unlocking the pleasures of reading. Carlton: SLAV.

Mallan, K. (Ed.) (2014). Picture Books and Beyond. Newtown, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Australia.

Matar, H. (2017, March 16). Books can take you places Donald Trump doesn’t want you to go, The New York Times.

Mills, H. & Jennings, L. (2011). Talking about talk: Reclaiming the value and power of literature circles. The Reading Teacher, 64 (8), 590-598.

Nodelman, P. & Reimer, M. (2003). The pleasures of children’s literature. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. 

Thomson, S., Hillman, K. & De Bortoli, L. (2013). A teacher’s guide to PISA reading literacy. Camberwell, Vic: ACER.

Thomson, S., Hillman, K, Wernert, N., Schmid, M., Buckley, S. & Muneme, A. (2012). Highlights from TIMMS and PIRLS 2011 from Austra​lia's perspective. Melbourne: ACER.