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In this chapter we ask: What is children’s literature? We aim to challenge the traditional idea that children’s literature is simply print-based stories for learners. To do this, we look at what Australia’s English curriculum says about literature and literary texts. Then, we reflect deeply on practical ways we can aid learners to find joy in literature and use different literary texts to: read silently, read aloud and read with friends; talk about plot, characters and settings; examine word choices; reflect on visual elements in images; see different perspectives; perform readers theatre; and sing. But this is no easy feat. Therefore, to help teachers, the bulk of the chapter offers practical ways to do what evidence-based research tells us, which is to put our trust in literature, and submerge and soak learners in quality literature to best support their efforts to lead literate lives.
Children begin to make meaning from the moment they are born. Their emerging abilities to communicate are central to the development of their thinking and imaginations; expression of their feelings and emotions; access to their cultural heritage(s); and, growth of their own unique identities. Learning how to mean and becoming literate continues to be critically important in shaping children and young people’s life chances. Yet it does not follow the same pattern for all children and cannot be reduced to a simple, linear hierarchy of skills (Ewing, 2020) or a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching those skills. Perhaps, because of its centrality to our lives and learning, becoming literate remains a complex and challenging area in education, broadly, but particularly in the primary classroom, where it is riddled with controversy. This book is underpinned by research and practice and reflects our serious commitment to every child’s entitlement to a rich and creative English and literacies education in the primary classroom.
Being literate in the twenty-first century means being an empowered receiver, user and creator of diverse text types communicated across multiple and rapidly changing modalities. English and Literacies: Learning to make meaning in primary classrooms is an accessible resource that introduces pre-service teachers to the many facets of literacies and English education for primary students. Addressing the requirements of the Australian Curriculum and the Early Years Learning Framework, English and Literacies explores how students develop oracy and literacy. Reading, viewing and writing are discussed alongside the importance of children's literature. Taking an inclusive and positive approach to teaching and learning for all students, it explores the creation of texts using spelling, grammar in context and handwriting/keyboarding skills, as well as the need for authentic assessment and reporting. Finally, the text explores the importance of literacy partnerships and how teachers can address literacy challenges across the curriculum.
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