ENGS 096: Intro to Children’s Lit

Happy Sunday, everyone! The weather’s not bad, and all of the assignments for this course are due tomorrow by 3pm. Thinking about that happy time when the course is over and you’ve racked up more academic credit and had a great time learning some cool stuff and reading some awesome (and some possibly not-so-awesome) books, you realize…

OMG I’M MISSING A BUNCH OF READING RESPONSES!!!!! WHAT DO I DO?!?!?!?!

Relax. There are lots of opportunities to make these up. Recent posts here and here and here should give you all you need.

But if even that won’t help you as much as you need to be helped, here are three more opportunites:

1) Here’s an interesting, thought-provoking, and touching article from Penn State professor Michael Berube about the power of narrative, told through the lens of his own experiences with his youngest child’s experiences with the Potter series. (The link is to a PDF file, so give it a minute to load. And no, there are no spoilers in the article.)

2) You read Stephen King’s thoughts on the end of the Potter series, but what happens when a rough and manly outdoors-type guy reads the books? The Burlington Free Press‘s regular outdoors columnist, Matt Crawford (seen below) discusses his take on the experience of reading the same books as your kids.

Mattnew.jpg

3) And finally, you’re sick of Potter but need more reading responses (for reasons we don’t need to discuss). What to do? Why not devise your own reading response topic? What should we have discussed in this course but didn’t? What brilliance do you bring to bear on the topic? The sky’s the limit with this one, so go nuts.


In the July 13, 2007 print issue of Entertainment Weekly, Stephen King writes about his feelings as the release of the final Harry Potter book. It’s an amazing essay, and you should read the whole thing.

Click on the link below to go to the passages that jumped out at me as being the most profound, and the most widely applicable to the endings of all good books and series, and to reading in general. What do you think about any of this? Feel free to use any of these as the starting-point for a response.

Read the rest of this entry »


After reading Vash’s last comment, and after thoroughly enjoying the good cry I always have when I read Bridge to Terabithia, I’ve decided to make this an open forum for discussing and/or responding to Katherine Paterson’s book. Feel free to use this as a make-up reponse if you’re missing one (or more), or as a place to use your nom de blog’s semi-anonymous-nature to vent/exult/gush/whatever about the book.

Have fun!


The final project takes us back all the way to our second week of class and Sumara, Davis, and van der Wey’s article on The Giver, “The Pleasure of Thinking.” In that article, the authors describe research they did into the ways we read, the relationships we form (or don’t) with books and with the narratives they express, and the capabilities we all have (even in elementary school) to develop complex ideas and hypotheses about our own literacy practices.

For the final project in this class, I asked you to pick one of the course texts and to read it with a pen in hand. To mark the heck out of the book, in effect, noting your thoughts, questions, hopes, fears, and anything else you think might be important to the book and/or to your understanding of the book.

Then, you were to read the book again, this time with a different colored pen in hand, but with much the same goal: write down what’s going on inside your head while you’re reading. The second reading, though, is not just of the book, but is also a reading of your first reading’s notes. And this means that your second reading’s notes can also be about your first reading’s notes. Why, you might ask yourself the second time through, did I write that?

For your final project, you’re going to perform a third reading with your chosen book — but this reading will focus on your notes from the first two readings. You’ll be reading your notes to discover patterns in your markings that indicate to you how you read.

Most of the time we don’t stop to ask ourselves how we make sense of the squiggles and lines on a page — we just do it. But now your chosen book has been marked with the evidence of your reading, and this evidence can help you to see what was going on in your mind as you read.

Sumara, Davis, and van der Wey didn’t just ask their elementary school kids to notice patterns. They asked their students to theorize about what those patterns might mean. For our project, I want you to notice as many patterns about your own reading/marking practices as you can, and recount them. But I also want you to theorize what these patterns might mean about reading. You’ll be extrapolating from your patterns to begin to think about what reading might be like (or must be like?) for others. In literacy studies, these hypotheses would then be used to develop experiments to see whether or not your ideas are broadly applicable to other people, and whether these insights (if they turn out to be true) can be used to help others to learn to read more easily and to understand what they’ve read more completely. We don’t have time for that in this course, but this is an important step in the serious work of literacy research.

So, to summarize, your final project:
* Should be at least 2 pages long
* Should list the insights you have gained about the patterns in your reading
* Should then begin to theorize about what those patterns/insights reveal about reading in general
* Must be e-mailed to me (reparent at uvm dot edu) no later than 3pm on Monday, July 30th

As always, let me know if you have any questions.


To kick off our series of bonus posts which you can respond to for credit if you’re short on reading responses, here’s something you may not know.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the fastest-selling book of all time, with at least 4.1 million books flying off the shelves in the first 48 hours of its release. It’s possible that the figure, as Scholastic insists, is actually 6.9 million. In any case, you won’t be seeing Deathly Hallows on the New York Times bestseller list. Ever. Michael Giltz explains why.

What do you think about this outrageous traveshamockery? What does this tell you about the way the “real world” and the “serious people” treat children’s literature — even when that children’s literature is a worldwide all-ages phenomenon of unprecedented proportions?


So far, we’ve had a total of six reading responses in this short, five-week course. That’s not too shabby! I’ve been impressed with the range of ideas you’ve all presented, and I’ve been very happy with the way(s) you’ve engaged each other’s ideas. That’s exactly what I wanted to happen.

To reward your hard work, I’ve decided to grade the responses on a completion model: if you’ve completed all six of the responses (the five on the course texts and the initial “introduce yourself” response), you will get full credit for the responses.

The reading responses for the course readings are now closed — which means that they will no longer accept comments. This makes sense because the last assigned reading response was due on Tuesday, and because no one is going to go back to read new comments on old readings.

If you haven’t completed all of the responses, you’ll get credit proportionally to the number you have completed.

If you haven’t completed all six responses, I’ll be posting items of general interest to the blog today, tomorrow, and Friday. You may comment substantively on these related posts for credit.


For your final wiki pages, I want us to focus on the power struggles that so often arise around the issue of children’s literature. We’ll be talking about these power structures (extending the conversation from last week’s examination of Nancy Garden’s Annie On My Mind) this week in relation to both Pete Hautman’s Godless and Katherine Paterson’s The Bridge to Terabithia.

This week, please post to the course wiki:

* 2 new mini-summary and reviews of children’s books that have made either the ALA’s list of the top 100 banned books or the ALA’s list of the Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2006
* 2 news articles (1 for each challenged book) about those books that discuss efforts (successful or not) to ban/remove those books from community or school libraries
* 1 new page on anything you think should be included in a wiki on children’s literature

That’s it!


“I respect power. Even in the hands of such as Henry Stagg” (6).

Our narrator tells us this in the first few pages of the book, and throughout the book Jason Bock shows us lots and lots of exercises in, abuses of, and investigations into power.

So, for this reading response, pick a moment from the book that memorably (or disturbingly, or interestingly) features some form of power, and discuss what makes that moment in the book particularly memorable, disturbing, or interesting.

You may find it useful to go back to Don Latham’s “Discipline and Its Dicontents” article about Foucault and The Giver. Few modern writers have written as much or as persuasively about power in all of its many forms as Michel Foucault, and Latham’s article might help you to frame your discussion in an unexpectedly erudite and insightful way.

Oh, and try not to stay up tooooooooo late reading The Deathly Hallows.


For this week’s (weekend’s?) Wiki assignment, take 2 out of the 3 books you have already written up on the wiki and find a newspaper or magazine discussion or review of those books.

1) Add a sentence to the existing wiki page you created for that book, saying somthing like: “The San Francisco Chronicle” discussed Flopsy’s Fabulous Festivity in a June 3, 2002 review.” And make something in that sentence a link to a new wiki page for that review.

2) Create a new wiki page for that review. Provide a brief discussion of the review/discussion on the wiki page.

3) On the new wiki page, put a link to the article.

4) Do this for two of your three (so far) books and you’re done!


For this week’s reading response, I’m leaving the topic semi-open: you can write about any aspect of, response to, or relection on the ending of Annie On My Mind.

To help (possibly) your reflection, and to give us an interesting perspective on the book and its historical and social context, if you weren’t in class on Tuesday, click here to check out a position paper from the American Library Association on “Evaluating the Treatment of Gay Themes in Books for Children and Younger Adults.” And be sure to note the original publication date!