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Transcript of Children's Literature
Written by John Marsden & illustrated by Matt Ottley
Pete the cat: I love my white shoes
Written by Eric Litwin & illustrated by James Dean
Written and illustrated by Chris McKimmie
Children's literature can take many forms, including picture books, but are generally writings and stories written by adults for children. Reading great literature with children offers valuable opportunities to explore and build knowledge on the purpose, structure, and language features of texts and create awareness of the social, cultural and aesthetic values of texts through discussion, modelling and scaffolding. Reading literature exposes children to new knowledge, worlds and experiences.
Pete the cat: I love my white shoes
Pete the cat walks merrily down the street wearing his new white shoes. Along the way his shoes change colour; from white to red, blue to brown then to wet, depending on what he steps in! Pete keeps moving and singing to himself all the way
Special Kev (McKimmie, 2008) is a story of a uniquely Australian, mischievous and much loved boy, with red hair and freckles and born on April Fools Day. Kev has a large extended family which includes his favourite cousin Fatty Boomah. When his cousin moves away Kev makes friends with new boy in town, Nicky Bathgate. When Kev ties Nicky to a tree Kev's life starts to take a downturn!
Visual literacy is the ability to decode the images and messages and analyse the power (Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl, & Holliday, 2010) within a text, bringing further meaning to the story, and helping with understanding and perception. Visual images may also add a sub-context to a text, telling a different story as the illustrator subtlety positions the reader.
Children's literature in the form of the narrative is an integral part of learning about language and word choices, enabling children to create their own narratives, or clearly understand how language works in helping establish an orientation, an atmosphere, foreshadowing a complication. Language features serve to enhance interest and suspense; involving the reader in the story as the characters and storyline develop.
Critical literacy is the ability to decode, question and evaluate texts for sub-context - underlying attitudes, values and beliefs, and also bring understanding of where the writer or illustrator wants us to be positioned. Critical literacy provides the tools for analysis, asking the reader to think carefully about the language used in the text and to what purpose the author or illustrator has chosen the those particular words or why positioned an image in that way and the impact that has on the way we view the storyline (Winch, et al 2010). Through reading independently and through class reading this can generate powerful learning opportunities for teachers; allowing children to discuss and share their thoughts with each other, under direction, and with careful open questioning techniques, to add further meaning (Chambers, 1995). Critical literacy allows students to reflect on and refine and justify their opinions with intellectual open-mindedness.
"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark."
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
This book, Special Kev, would be a good choice for students in the years 3-6 age group to explore. When I first read this book, my initial thoughts were that it was like the film 'The Castle' meets ADHD ! It is open to interpretation as to whether Kev is called 'Special Kev' because he was so wanted as a child or if he has special needs. This wonderful story is viewed and told through Special Kev's eyes. McKimmey uses personal pronouns to assist the reader's understanding of this; 'me and Fatty', 'I am special'. Kev and his family are the epitome of true blue Australian battlers; a real working class family, living in the outer suburbs. I get this impression because of the hand-made Scrub Turkey present, the smaller homes with no visible pools, and the nicknames of the families. Because of the busy lines and chaotic, energetic pictures I also got the impression Special Kev may well have Aspergers or ADHD, and got into trouble because he does not see the social cues. I think that the underlying coda of the story is that it is good to be unique, different and resilient. I think there is also an underlying theme of family love, belonging and bonds; clearly demonstrated how Kev is fondly regarded by his mother, who planted roses and 'rolled out the red carpet' when he was born and by the fact that his dad made a thoughtful present, the Scrub Turkey replica, that Kev really appreciated. This is a story that students from years 3-6 could really relate to, an age group that are often self-conscious. It would be also an important book to share in the classroom, especially with students that from others cultures, who have differing values, experiences and histories.
McKimmie (2008), uses illustrations effectively to complement the text and add further meaning. His illustrations are in a paint medium and depict very Australian scenes and images. I enjoyed the fact that McKimmie's children were involved in the process (as described on end page) and I think this assists with the books appeal. The complementary font used looks like handwriting, so the reader can imagine Kev writing the story himself. The colours used are Australian - warm and summery reds, oranges and yellows - but darken when Kev gets into trouble, after which they lighten again, as he is forgiven. The skies are blue and cloudless and the sun is shown often. There are drawings of cockatoos, a hills hoist, a Scrub Turkey, the Big Avocado, Kev playing as Ned Kelly or playing Australian Football - all iconic Australian images. The pictures seem to be busy, with lots of lines and action; this helps portray Special Kev as being a active boy, always on the go.
There are a variety of language features to enhance this story. The language and word choices are uniquely Australian. McKimmie (2008) has used colloquialisms, such as 'I felt like a real Nigel-No-Mates', 'blood nut' and 'got the glums up'. he also uses an Australian simile '...bloodnuts are nearly extinct like cassowaries...', and figurative language, 'rolled out the red carpet' and 'I saw red'. There is also the use of nicknames and the Australian shortening of names such as- 'Kev', 'Aunty Pav', 'Sharky's', 'Nobby Nutso', and 'Fatty Boombah'. There is also exaggeration - 'I have to go to bed early every night until my next birthday' and 'eleventy million'. These language features are all very effective and create great imagery of an Australian boy in an outer suburban or country Australian town for the reader, while also making the book an amusing and fun book to read.
After reading the book, Special Kev, (McKimmie, 2008), in class, discuss the language features of the book as Special Kev has a rich source of idiomatic language, unique to Australia. Explain or remind students of what a simile, metaphor and colloquium are. Ask students to draw a picture of themselves (they could use a mirror if available) and use some describing words. If for example they draw black hair, brainstorm together, as a class, a simile for black - eg; his hair black as the night. Extension activity - Ask students to talk to a family member to if they know any Australian colloquiums or Australian similes - bring them in the next day to share with the class (Grandparents might be a particularly good resource here). Brainstorm with the class and then get the students to write down one simile and one colloquium and draw a picture underneath for further meaning and understanding. Post these on the wall so students are able to use them in their writing and refer to them; along with an appropriate definition of these language features.
Links to Curriculum
I think this activity is an appropriate one to be considered for a class in the Years 3-6 age group. By Year 6 students would be able to be more critical in their thinking so the lesson should be targeted and modified appropriately. Australian Curriculum, Assessment & Reporting Authority (ACARA) (2013), states that by the end of Year 3 students should understand how language features, images and vocabulary choices are used for different effects. They should be able to read texts for meaning, structure and grammar choices, using visual features and layout to guide them. Students should be able to identify the intended audience and be able to explore and reflect on literal and inferred information in texts. By the completion of Year 6 students should be able to understand that different social and geographical dialects are used in Australia and be able to make connections with their own experiences and the characters represented in a text. Students should also be able to participate and contribute in discussions, sharing and evaluating information. They should also have some understanding of how modality, emphasis and metaphors influence a text and how the author uses language features for effect (ACARA, 2013).
Home and Away
What would happen if a typical Australian family found themselves as displaced refugees? Marsden (2008) narrates this story through the eyes of a fifteen year old teenage boy and his family when they find themselves displaced by war. The protagonist tells the story of the days preceding and then following an invasion of Australia and how it affects his family, their desperation under an oppressive regime and what lengths the family will go to to escape this horrific situation.
Links to the Curriculum
Links to the Curriculum
I love this book; it is vibrant, fun and very appealing and a great one to share with young readers. Exploring this story through anthromorphism, via Pete the Cat, makes for a very inclusive classroom text; appealing to both genders and also those students with diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. The storyline is a simple and traditionally set out narrative, which allows for teaching emergent readers the concept of critical literacy and reflection, encouraging students to understand the coda and message behind the storyline of optimism, persistence, problem solving and keeping problems in perspective. The author and illustrator are both telling the same story in a symbiotic manner which would allow students to actively participate in the story-telling experience. This book would also lend itself to cross-curriculum activities, such as art, teaching of patterns and colour, and beginning narrative writing.
The language features used in this book include tone and word choice creates an imagery and indicates a sense of fun, optimism and amazement. There is emphatic use and repetition of key words; "Oh no!", "What colour did it turn his shoes?" and "Did Pete cry? Goodness, no!" which reinforces the coda of the story and helps emergent reader to understand the actions of Pete. The use of a variety of person creates a feeling of empathy, and movement in the story eg; first person - "I love my white shoes" reflecting the easy-going personality of Pete the Cat, and also third person, in this case the narrator, - "Did Pete cry?" and "Pete stepped in a large puddle of..." The use of rhetorical questions serve to draw the reader in to Pete's drama. There is also a pattern and rhythm to the storyline, sympathetic to the visual features, which integrates the story to the visual features.
Pete the Cat is a traditionally set out picture book with thirty two pages and rectangular in shape. The larger book format encourages the reader to become emerged in the story and allows for more energy in the illustrations (Barone, 2011). The cover is yellow which serves to attract and draw the reader in with its connotations of happiness. The bright watercolour illustrations are vibrant and draw the young reader in by creating a sense of fun and optimism. The illustrator uses pattern as an element to achieve unity and movement (Government Publications, 1999).The typeface font, size and colour is sympathetic to the storyline and the book's intended audience (Gamble, 2013) while aiding the visual appeal of the book. The use of colour in the book allows emergent readers to explore colour and gain understanding of how colour can influence and work in illustrated picture books. The pictures are drawn at eye level, and vary between long-shot and mid-shot setting the scene of the story and showing the character's facial expressions. This allows the reader to feel empathy with the character and involved in the story.
I think that using this book as a classroom resource lends itself to involving students and incorporating language in all its forms; music, storytelling, drama, talking, drawing, listening and writing (DECD, 2013). The colouring activity and storyboard type activity of this text allows students, through visual literacy skills, to make connections, understand patterns of repetition and colour, and supports the identification of words, narrative features and structures through colour (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), 2013).
Storyboard and colouring activities to assist with visual awareness and the effects and effectiveness of colour in sequencing and pattern.
The visual images within this book really reinforce and support the powerful message of the book, provoking an immediate emotional response. As soon as you pick up the book you have a feeling that all will not be as it seems, with the bland title surrounded by razor wire and the haunting image of the boy behind the high wire fence in a red, empty desert. The illustrations alternate between the realistic, diary entries and a young child's (Toby) unsophisticated drawings. At first the reader is shown happy photographs, happy drawings of a family but the pages suddenly turn red, symbolising bloodshed and the ironic TV image of a cartoon gunslinger foreshadows the brutality of what comes next. Toby's childish drawings underscore the harsh situation, the narrator's scribbled and poignant diary notes, the haunted, hungry, scared faces, the double page spread of the grasping hands, of the dark unlit room, the vast and unwelcoming ocean, demonstrate the sheer desperation of the family's unpredictable situation and the enormity of the trip ahead.
The author uses many language features effectively to enhance and create impact within this text. The title is a play on words, demonstrating two opposing lives; the suburban character interactions on Australia's popular TV show of the same name and also the unpredictable life of displaced people. There is use of short and fractured sentences and short dramatic paragraphs to create tension. Juxtaposition is used to great effect; the family's tranquil lives suddenly followed by bloodshed and fear, turning the story to an opposing perspective. Use of the first person via the narrator helps the reader identify and empathise with the character and his situation, seeing some similarity to our own lives (Lukens, 2007). The text is sparse, without many adjectives, the diary extracts only include the necessary; as if the situation is too desperate and dire to spend time contemplating, as if just getting through the day is all the narrator can manage.
A compelling and powerful book, Home and Away is contemporary realistic fiction which allows the reader to explore social issues (Gamble, 2013) and perspective. This book is written for adolescents and I think that both the author and illustrator's intent is allow the reader to explore and evaluate diverse perspectives and points of view in a contentious and political issue that is often highlighted in today's media and society. I feel that the author and illustrator are positioning the reader to take a compassionate point of view towards asylum seekers and refugees in today's society and develop a more rounded view. The years 6-8 age group the book is aimed at would empathise with the credible characters who have similar lives and the main protagonist and narrator would be of a similar age. At the beginning of the story we are introduced to a stereotypical Australian family, Mum, Dad the children doing stereotypical activities - watching TV, eating pizza, school, and playing computer games. As the story progresses the story and images get darker, more chaotic, unpredictable and frantic. It would be so easy to imagine ourselves in a similar conflict situation and this in turn would serve as a catalyst for some powerful and robust conversations in the classroom on the exploration of human condition and understanding (Lukens, 2007). This topic would have to be approached with sensitivity and with an open mind from both the teacher and students but it would certainly be thought provoking and challenge some beliefs we might already have developed. This text would certainly lead on to further research across the curriculum areas; English, History/SOSE and Citizenship and Civics.
After classroom reading and discussion of the book write a newspaper article on the outbreak of the war based on the book, Home and Away. The article should include headline, byline, factual details, quotes from witnesses or experts. Use the text structure and language and grammar features of a newspaper article (Housden, 2010) and an example should be included in the activity and discussed as a class. I think that this would be an appropriate activity for a year 7-8 age group because they are starting to explore a variety of text types and intertexuality. The students would also have to identify the key points and ideas of the narrative then synthesise the information to turn it to a newspaper article (Schill, 2003). The article would have to written objectively not emotively and from an third person point of view. In order to undertake this task successfully the students would have to have a clear understanding of critical literacy; understanding perspective, voice, and how the author and illustrator are positioning the reader and evaluate the text for meaning and understanding. This activity could also be undertaken as an oral exercise, where the students role play as newsreaders or current affair interviewers with similar information, asking mock questions instead.
I think this might be an appropriate challenging and engaging exercise to undertake in the classroom to promote deeper thinking and critical literacy skills, encouraging the use of Gardner's (2005) 'Five minds for the Future" skills ; the disciplined, synthesising, creating, respectful and ethical minds. I believe it is important to explore and reflect on the values of democracy, equity and justice, the rights of the individual and community and encourage students to make positive contributions (Tudball & Forsyth, 2009). ACARA, (2013) states that students in the years 6-9 should be able to;
• analyse text structures and language features of persuasive texts, including media texts for cause and effect.
• plan, rehearse and deliver presentations that reflect a diversity of viewpoint.
• be innovative, broad, flexible thinkers reflecting on possibilities
Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), (2013). Australian Curriculum F-10 English.
Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), (2013). Critical and creative thinking.
t is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations--something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own.'
Assessment Task 2