From the time when a child becomes aware of their surroundings, literature should play some sort of significant role in their lives. As mentioned in my literature class, children should first be exposed to the picture book; after the picture book, schemata begins to develop—thus influencing responses, as well as their future encounters with literature.
As adults, what many of us do not realize is that every single child is different in their own way. Whether it is through knowledge, beliefs, or personal experiences, each of them have an individual thought process.
“As their experience of books and of life widens, children develop more subtle schemata: not only information but also ways of connecting that information to a text’s references to it that allow them to make greater sense of what that read and get deeper pleasure from it” (Nodelman text, page 53).
I believe that schemata are developed by what children experience at a young age; their thought process is affected by both literature and their own personal situations. As explained in the Nodelman text, everyone has different experiences of language and of life. Each reader gets something different out of the same story. Everyone has a different meaning of the shared text; a different schemata. I apply this theory to the idea that there are specific stories that may be appropriate for certain types of children. In stories such as: Frog and Toad Are Friends, Hansel and Gretel, and Robin Hood, specific types of children that have experienced certain things, may develop an appreciation or salutation for these stories
that you and I have not.
I myself was a child raised in a single-parent household before my step-father came into my life. Frog and Toad Are Friends were books that I often read to myself, by myself, in my room. I remember feeling comfort in reading the series. Frog and Toad were the best of friends and would do anything for each other. The concept made me feel like I wasn’t alone; as an only child with my Mother working, I often did feel alone. The Letter from the Frog and Toad books is a story in which a child raised by a single parent can find gratification. In the reading, Toad expresses to his friend Frog how when the mail comes, he feels sad because he never typically receives any letters. Frog then rushes home, and begins writing a letter to his friend Toad:
“Dear Toad, I am glad that you are my best friend. Your best friend, Frog.”
They both wait for the letter together and four days letter, the snail delivers it. The moral and value in the story is clear and simple; you are not alone and you will always have someone to lift your spirits. This happy little story does just that. The little ways that Frog and Toad show their comradery is admirable. It almost feels as if they are friends of yours. Personally, I felt content as a child knowing that Frog and Toad were there for comfort if I was not feeling it at home.
A child in foster care may also feel a similar emptiness as a child that is raised in a single-parent household. Frog and Toad Are Friends would too be a great series for that particular type of child, as would Hansel and Gretel. A popular theme which existed in the Brothers Grimm fairytales was child abandonment. Foster children may often get that often feeling of neglect that can be identified when reading Hansel and Gretel, as they too were abandoned by their father and step-mother. This is not the only reason why this particular type of child would receive gratification from this story. Hansel and Gretel is an adventurous story of two young children that must fend for themselves in pursue of food and shelter. When they come to a house made out of candy and gingerbread, they find all that they have been denied, as well as a saving grace for the reason in which they were abandoned in the first place. They then run into trouble when they encounter a witch that wants to turn them into supper. The story is exciting and surprisingly it has a happy ending, locating their father who wanted them after all and discovering riches in Gretel’s apron.
A child in foster care reading this story will most likely identify with the characters. Having felt abandoned themselves, children will already have schemata before indulging in the reading. They will also be “rooting” for Hansel and Gretel, thus receiving a sense of satisfaction when in fact the children come out of that terrible situation with pearls, jewels, and their father. This story can give these children a moment to escape, possibly even giving them hope that they too will one day have their happy ending, just as Hansel and Gretel did.
Who does not enjoy a happy ending, especially when a character’s hardships are relatable? However, what if the child has never felt any grief, or experienced any hardships? These children would be recognized as purely common. They too would find enjoyment from the same stories read by those with single parents or children in foster care, but particular schemata will influence a reader’s specific comprehension of the messages portrayed. It is agreeable that “normal” children or children that are eager to read exciting texts, would most likely find gratification in a story such as The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. Robin Hood is an exciting character; honorable, heroic, funny, giving and loyal. Yet, Robin Hood is still known at a trouble-causing bandit; the outlaw of Sherwood Forest who defended the poor. According to the Zipes text, the stories reach many different social classes and age groups (page 461). Robin Hood stories are adventurous, and romantic; he is a character that many children would like to impersonate, as the readings will trigger excitement and imagination. Stories such as those with a character like Robin Hood have the ability to reach the common child; children that do not have as many worries as the other types of children mentioned. All the common child looks for is adventure during their stages of innocence.
By applying the theory of schemata to the idea of matching a certain type of children with a particular story, we can begin to understand how information is interpreted based on prior knowledge, as well as experiences. In reference to the lecture from my class, I must agree that the appropriate literature for children will have an enormous amount of influence on the way in which they view themselves and the world. It will also influence the choices that a child will make presently, as well as in the future. Literature and experience go hand-in-hand, thus emphasizing the importance of our schemata.
My explanation of schemata:
I had hoped I was utilizing schemata in the correct context. I will explain to you what I believe the meaning of schemata is.
After reading in the Nodelman text as well as from a few sources on the internet, I decided that schemata was more of philosophical and or psychological understandings. Children (in this case) possess a certain schemata based on experience. I see schemata as a way of viewing the world as a result of something a child may have experienced. I also see it as a way of looking at the reasoning behind a child’s cognitive process.
For example, a child of innocence may get something different out of a story like “Hansel and Gretal” than let’s say an orphan child would. A child of innocence may view the story as adventurous, focusing on the fight to survive against the witch, or the excitement of the candy house even.
An orphan child may hone in on the fact that Hansel and Gretal were abandoned. It may reach this particular child on another level (possibly emotionally) due to the experience he or she may have. In other words, the story could “hit home” for them, so to speak. Therefore, I referred to schemata being as a response that a child may have to a story. I was arguing that schemata is heavily influenced by a child’s life experiences. I then applied these ideas to my reasoning behind why I choose each story for each particular child.