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Matching a Child to Literature

24 Apr

 

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.

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Mouse Paint

14 Mar

Gee, how I love Mouse Paint.  Eleen Stoll Walsh really knew what she was doing with this one.  These three cute little mice will teach children how mixing two colors together (in this case, by stepping in them) will sometimes make a new one.

With my classroom of two-year-olds, I would read this book almost everyday; the kids had it mastered.  Before writing this post, I read on another blog that this book and any crafts that may derive from it, are only suitable for 1st graders. HA!  Not only did I have two-year-olds memorizing this story, but they were reciting it as they mixed two colors of paint together to create a new one.

So, it just goes to show you.  Do NOT underestimate children.  They are smarter than you think.  All that’s required is a little patience and repetition.

I am not going to list a nifty craft for Mouse Paint, for the ideas are endless.  Ok fine, I’ll list one LOL!

 

What you’ll need:

Soft Sponges

Paper

Paint

Scissors

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the sponges into the shape of feet (human feer, mouse feet, whatever your heart desires)

Mix the colors as instructed in the book (I recommend purchasing the book because you will need to consult it, as I forget myself what colors make what when mixed together)

Have the children “step” in the different colors of paint with the foot sponges and mix them together on the paper

*Your kids will love this book.  The smarter they feel, the smarter they will be–and they WILL learn something from Mouse Paint!

 

First the Egg

28 Feb

Okay, so upon reading Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s “First the Egg”, you may say “That’s it?”  Honestly, I had the same thought when I first read this book…until I discovered the fun in it.  At the nursery school, my kids learned a lot from this book.  It helps them to cognitively understand the sequence of events; for example: “First the tadpole, and then the frog!”  After the children became more familiar with the book, I allowed them to answer in unison what would come next.

“First the Egg” made some of my most quietest students yell out loud; this was so pleasant to see.  So, this is why I love this book so much–definitely in my top 10 favorites as far as children’s books go.

NIFTY CRAFT ALERT:

Really want to make your kids feel smart?  Try photo copying the pages and cut out the featured items.  Then, have the children glue them on a piece of construction paper in order.  They can decorate the project afterwards with crayons and pom-poms if they want.

My “No David!” Praise

10 Feb

     So, I am a huge fan of the “David Series”.  The illustrations are not only happy and bright, but they are simple and fun to look at.  Even though “No David!” in particular has very few words on each page, I find that it enhances children both cognitively and social and emotionally.  David was a child like many children that often found himself in trouble-situations: spilling juice on Mommy’s carpet, forgetting to put his pants on before his walk to school, etc.  I used to read this book to my Twaddler class almost everyday; not only to teach them right from wrong, but it enabled me to ask them questions.  I loved asking them questions–it got them to think. “What is David doing?”  I’d ask.  They would answer: “He is skateboarding in the house!” “Where are we supposed to skateboard?” I’d ask.  “OUTSIDE!!!” they would respond.

So, before you pick up the book at your local bookstore and skim it prior to purchasing it for a child, remember not to judge a book by the inside pages.  Fewer words on a page can provide you with even more opportunities to help a child learn.   Happy reading!

Why It’s So Important to Expose Children to Literature

7 Feb

I am currently enrolled in a Studies in Children’s Literature course.  My first essay was due last night and I found the assignment very interesting.  After taking notes I realized that we do not understand how truly important it is for children to be read to.  With that said, the following post is part of my essay–Why is it so important to expose children to literature?

Having children read literature opens the doors to further information about the world around them.  It is agreeable that it influences the way we think about ourselves and in the world.  Reading to children at a very young age will influence the way in which they choose to live in the future; whether it be through decisions of interests, or education.  Therefore, a child’s exposure to literature depends on the parents, as well as the caregivers.  Not all pleasures can be taught, but that does not mean that they cannot be introduced.

If children do not learn how to read and or are not read to, then they will never get to make the choice between reading and television (or any other activity for that matter).  I have chosen the two strategies in which I feel are most important in gaining a child’s interest as far as literature goes.  The first is simple; make reading fun.  As explained by my instructor at college, Professor Williams agrees that speaking to a child is very important.  Children learn by being talked to and read to.  I believe that talking about what objects are on each page do enhance a child’s vocabulary, but it also allows them to express themselves, thus promoting cognitive learning.  After a child has learned what a “ball” is, then why not move on to the next step?  What can we do with a ball?  What do you like to do with a ball?  I do believe that these methods of the reading experience will allow the child to develop a greater interest in the stories.  They will look forward to the routine in which they were provided; cuddling up with Mom, helping to gently turn the page, and showing her what we remember about the objects in the story.

Another way in which we can get children interested in literature is by selecting the right literature to expose them to.  My theory is simple: if we enjoy it, then there’s a good chance that they will enjoy it too.

Remember, just because there are some “big” words in the literature, certain poems and stories may still be worthy enough to be shared.  We often underestimate children and their intelligence.  So what if they do not know the meaning of new vocabulary?  Should they be deprived of the poem all together because of minor obscurities?  Children are still able to enjoy literature even if they are too young to read it themselves.  Even if there are unfamiliar words, they can still enjoy it.  Children’s books have such significance to the lives of youngsters.  It is all about the initial experience of not only the way in which a book is presented to them, but the individual attention they are receiving from a parent or caregiver.  Even if the child cannot read, or even understand the meaning of a few words, therein lies a comfort aspect that children feel when hearing an adult read to them.

As mentioned in my introduction paragraphs, reading to a child at a very young age is crucial to their growth process.  Of course they learn language, facts, and enhance memory skills, but the real power in children’s book are the emotional effects they have on our lives.  These emotional effects are derived from the reading experience and this experience depends on those that wish to provide us with it.

It is like Aidan Chambers said: “Readers are made, not born.”  If it is true that when we become adults that we remain totally connected to the child we once were, then we should all be compelled to read to our children as early as possible.

*I will be recommending some of my favorite Children’s Literature here on The Nifty Nanny blogsite.  Please e-mail theniftynanny@gmail.com with comments, questions, and any suggestions you may have for fun books and poems for kids!

(Photo courtesy of apples4theteacher.com)