Chapter 2: Why Reading Aloud Is Crucial

Professional actors read picture books:

Website of Australian children’s author Mem Fox:

Findings from the 2015 NAEP reading tests: 

Krashen’s article on free voluntary reading:

Storyline Online:

Reading Rockets:

Additional Readings for Chapter 2 from the First Edition of TCL

The following readings focus on the importance of reading aloud to students, regardless of their age or ability to read independently.

Krashen, S. (2006). Free reading. School Library Journal, 52(9), 42-45.

This piece begins with a provocative question and response: “If there were a surefire way to help kids become more literate, would you ignore it?  Of course not.  But that’s exactly what’s happening across much of our nation.” Krashen goes on to argue that sustained silent reading (SSR) is the surefire way even though it has received little attention or support from the US Department of Education. This brief overview of SSR and its research base provides a good starting point for further discussion about kids, reading, and the role government has played in the debate about teaching methods.

Copenhaver, J. (2001). Running out of time: Rushed read-alouds in a primary classroom. Language Arts, 79(2), 148-158.

The author describes what transpired in a first grade classroom when the teacher was pushed to cut back the amount of time for reading aloud so that the children would receive more direct instruction on reading skills. The article provides a fascinating analysis of how this seemingly minor curricular adjustment had wide-reaching consequences in terms of how individual children were positioned as successful learners or discipline problems in the classroom.

Trelease, J. (1982, 2006). The read-aloud handbook. New York: Penguin Books.

This is a useful and enlightening book for every parent and teacher who is interested in helping children to fall in love with reading. Trelease takes a hands-on, practical approach to the art of reading aloud to audiences of any age. The numerous success stories he shares provide encouragement and information for getting started and working with different age groups.

Chapter 3: Teaching Reading with Literature

Association for Library Service to Children:

Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens:

Suggestions for using environmental print:

Digital-Storytime’s Best Books of the Year and Top 25 Picture Book Apps for Ages 2-12:

Examples of narrative and digital storytelling:

The Banana Slug String Band performs “Dirt Made My Lunch

Original Harry Potter stories written by fans:

Additional Readings for Chapter 3 from the First Edition of TCL

The following readings focus on the importance of using literature to reading and content area subjects.

Poonam, A., Martens, P., Wilson, G., Altwerger, B., Jin, L., Laster, B., & Lang, D. (2005). Reclaiming literacy instruction: Evidence in support of literature-based programs. Language Arts, 83(1), 63-72.

Do children learn about phonics when teachers use literature as the foundation of their reading program? Researchers found that children learning to read through commercial phonics-based programs were not significantly better than students in literature-based programs in terms of phonics use, accuracy, or comprehension. In addition, students in literature-based programs were found to use more strategies, take more risks, and take action when what they read didn’t make sense.

Cunningham, A., & Shagoury, R. (2005). The sweet work of reading: Kindergartners explore reading comprehension using a surprisingly complex array of strategies. Educational Leadership, 63(2), 53-57.

This article will be especially interesting to teachers who work with kindergarten and first grade students. The authors provide numerous examples of young children learning to dig deep as they are also learning to read. They show how comprehension strategies can be taught right from the beginning.

Brozo, W., & Tomlinson, C. (1986). Literature: The key to lively content courses. The  Reading Teacher, 40(3), 288-293.

This classic article describes how trade books can be used to help older students understand the textbooks used in their content courses. While textbooks are often dry and not very inviting, literature brings new topics to life.

Chapter 4: Choosing Books: Diversity Counts

Resources on Current Social Issues Books. For resources on current social issues books, we suggest 35 Picture Books for Young Activists (Higgins, 2017).  This annotated list can be found at  Another helpful resource is an article in School Library Journal called “From refugee to voting rights, books to inspire a just, inclusive society” (Bank Street College of Education, 2017).  The list includes picture and chapter books on topics such as immigration, refugees, LGBQ/transgender/intersex issues, disabilities, women in leadership, voting rights, democracy, children’s rights, racism/injustice, and climate change. This extensive annotated list can be found at  Lists and articles such as these are a good way to keep up on the latest social issues books.

History of Diverse Authors in Children’s Literature.  For a short history of the opening up of the field of children’s literature to diverse authors and the founding of the Coretta Scott King Award, you can view children’s author and illustrator Ashley Bryan discussing “The all white world of children’s literature” in the Reading Rockets’ Ashley Bryan video interview, clip 7/9 (

Author interviews. We have found a number of online author interviews that are very helpful to use in classrooms. The Reading Rockets website ( has over 130 author and illustrator interviews.  These include:

Online Read-Alouds. There are a number of social issues and multicultural books that are excellent resources. Some of the best come from Storyline Online, produced by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation. Here are three of our favorites.

  • White Socks Only (Evelyn Coleman, 1996): Read by actress Amber Tamblyn, this is the touching story of grandma when she was a girl in Jim Crow Mississippi. She sneaks into town to see if what she heard was true—that you can fry an egg on the pavement if it is hot enough. The story unfolds as she comes across a drinking fountain with a sign reading “whites only.” She knows exactly what to do. She takes off her black patent leather shoes and gets on the water fountain step with her clean white socks to get a drink. Then she is noticed by the white townspeople. Amber Tamblyn presents a great example of how anyone can read a book about an ethnic group other than their own.
  • To Be a Drum (Evelyn Coleman, 1998): Read by actor James Earl Jones, who also discusses his own struggles with reading aloud and stuttering, this book is a marvelous tale of inner freedom. Daddy Wes tells the story of the earth’s first people living in harmony with the earth; the middle passage and slavery; resistance through song, talk, quilting, and beat; the heroics of the civil rights movement; and the incredible contributions African Americans have made to the United States and the world. The illustrations are magnificent by themselves, but are beautifully animated in this video.
  • No Mirrors in My Nana’s House (Ysaye M. Barwell, 1998):  Read by Tia and Tamara Mowry from “Sister, Sister,” this multicultural book is about a girl growing up with her grandmother in a house with no mirrors, no stereotypes. We found it a bit problematic in that it diminishes the problems of poverty, but this makes for great conversations. The author is a member of Sweet Honey and the Rock, and the a-cappella group singing the second reading of the book is pure joy.

TABLE 4.1.   Useful Resources for Assessing Cultural Authenticity

Book Awards

Web and Book Resources

Coretta Scott King Award (African American)

American Indian Youth Literature Award (Native American)

Pura Belpré Award (Latino/a)

Tomás Rivera Award (Mexican American)

Sydney Taylor Award (Jewish)

Américas Book Award (Latin American, Caribbean, or U.S. Latino/a)

Carter G. Woodson Book Award (topics related to ethnic minorities and race relations sensitively and accurately)

Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature

Jane Addams Book Award (effectively promotes peace, social justice, world community and the equality of the sexes and all races)

Notable Social Studies Trade Books (emphasize human relations, represent a diversity of groups and are sensitive to a broad range of cultural experiences)

IRA Notable Books for a Global Society

Middle East Book Award

Asian American:
Asian American Curriculum Project

Native American:

Seale & Slapin (2005). A broken flute: the Native experience in books for children. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press

African American:

Brown Sugar and Spice Educational Books and Services

Latinxs in Kids Lit

(includes filters by topics)

Reading While White—Allies for Racial Diversity & Inclusion in Books for Children and Teens

University of Wisconsin—Cooperative Children’s Book Center—Multicultural Literature

Harris, V.J. (1997) Using multiethnic literature in the K-8 classroom. Christopher-Gordon Publishers

(Worlds of Words from the University of Arizona)

Additional Readings for Chapter 4 from the First Edition of TCL

The following readings are focused on social issues, multicultural, and international children’s and chapter books. We have used these readings in teacher study groups and found them helpful in fostering discussions that relate theory to classroom practice.

Social Issue Books

Multicultural Books

International Books

Leland, C., Harste, J. C., Ociepka, A., Lewison, M., & Vasquez, V. (1999). Exploring critical literacy: You can hear a pin drop. Language Arts, 77(1) 70–77.

Louie, B. Y. (2006). Guiding principles for teaching multicultural literature. The Reading Teacher, 59(1), 438–448.

Short, K. G. (2009a). Critically reading the word and the world building understanding through literature. Bluebird: A Journal of International Children’s Literature, 47(2), 1–10.


This article discusses both problematic issues and productive learning in classrooms when teachers read children’s books that have the power to engage students in “critical” conversations about issues of power and social justice, and how systems of meaning in society position educators. It offers descriptions of 12 such books for children, lists chapter books, books for older readers, and books about taking social action for social justice.


In this article, Louie offers seven principles that teachers should pay attention to when using multicultural literature in classrooms. These include issues of authenticity, understanding character’s worlds and perspectives, relating self to the text, the value of having variants of the same story, and why it is important to encourage students to talk, write, and respond throughout reading the multicultural texts. Louie reports on a study in a fourth-grade classroom in which her principles were applied in teaching four variants of the Mulan story and watching Walt Disney’s “Mulan” video.


This article describes a collaborative project that involved elementary teachers integrating international literature into their classrooms without using a “tourist approach.” Short provides a very useful framework for creating a curriculum that’s international. It includes focusing on personal cultural identities, cross-cultural studies, integration of intercultural perspectives, and inquiries into global issues.

Chapter 5: Language Study: Lingering in Text

TED Talk: The Danger of a Single Story (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

Tools for evaluating web-based resources:

Wiki and resources for middle school language arts/literacy educators:

Information on Junior Great Books:

Guidelines for using Socratic seminars:

Additional Readings for Chapter 5 from the First Edition of TCL

Shannon, P. (2002). The myths of reading aloud. The Dragon Lode, 20(2), 6-11. 

This article provides examples of underlying messages in picture books. Shannon includes testimonials from authors like Dr. Seuss and offers his perspectives on why famous people like Presidents Clinton and Bush might have selected specific books to read aloud when they visited schools.

Baildon, M., & Damico, J. (2006)."We have to pick sides”: Students wrestle with counter claims on websites. Social Education 70(3), 156-160.

The authors describe how middle school students attempted to deal with conflicting information found on different websites. They provide a list of questions for teachers to use to help students evaluate websites more effectively. Some of the questions focus on the importance of locating evidence for the various claims being made.

Leland, C., & Harste, J., with Huber, K. (2005). Out of the box: Critical literacy in a first-grade classroom. Language Arts, 82(4), 258-268. 

This article describes the professional journey of a first grade teacher who decided to begin using critical literacy practices in her rural classroom. Examples of the children’s writing, art, and discussions about authors’ intent document the success of young children taking engaging in language study.

Chapter 6: Supporting Literature Discussions

We Need Diverse Books” website:

Teacher-created video describing one version of literature circles:

Additional Readings for Chapter 6 from the First Edition of TCL

The following readings provide ideas and strategies for supporting rich literature discussions.

Clyde, J.A. (2003). Stepping inside the story world: The subtext strategy—A tool for
 connecting and comprehending. The Reading Teacher, 57(2), 150-160.

Jean Anne Clyde explains her work with the subtext strategy. Teachers may find it useful to read the article together and follow it with a picture book or short story so they can try doing the strategy and getting feedback from each.

Leland, C., & Harste, J. with Davis, A., Haas, C., McDaniel, K., Parsons, M.,& Strawmyer, M. (2003) “It made me hurt inside”: Exploring tough social issues through critical                 literacy. The Journal of Reading Education, 28(2), 7-15.

This piece describes how five teacher education interns moved from wondering if critical literacy was appropriate for their students to engaging in inquiry projects that focused on the actual use of these books in classrooms. A number of different literacy response strategies that can be used with both older and younger children are discussed and samples of student work are shown.

Smith, K. (1995). Bringing children and literature together in the elementary classroom. Primary Voices K-6, 3(2), 22-30.

Karen Smith’s classic article provides a wonderful glimpse into a successful fifth/sixth grade literature study program. The author describes how her instructional approach changes during the year to match students’ development and needs. She also discusses how she deals with problems and distractions.

Chapter 7: Books Across the Curriculum: Focused, Author, Illustrator, and Genre Studies

Instructional Strategies for Picture Book and Illustrator studies. (Saskatoon Public Schools (2004-2009):

Teaching from the Walls.  To see a version of a learning wall in action, watch Teaching from the Walls, a National Education Association video showing how teacher Sherwanda Chism uses the walls of her classroom as a research and learning tool during a unit of study on The Great Migration (

Author Study Toolkit.  For more information on implementing author studies in your classroom, Reading Rockets (2017) has created “The Author Study Toolkit,” a very helpful guide that can be found at  The toolkit includes sections on:

  • What is an author study?
  • Ten reasons to do an author study.
  • How to do an author study.
  • Set a purpose and goals.
  • Choose an author.
  • Read and respond to the books.
  • Research the authors.
  • Culminating projects.
  • Author study resources.

Resources for Author and Illustrator Studies.  The Reading Rockets website ( over 130 author and illustrator video interviews along with print biographies. These have proven to be extremely helpful for students conducting author and illustrator studies.

Additional Readings for Chapter 7 from the First Edition of TCL:

Focused, Genre, and Author Studies

Focused Study

Genre Study

Author Study

Silvers, P., Shorey, M., & Crafton, L. (2010) Critical literacy in a primary multiliteracies classroom: The hurricane group. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 10(1), 379–409.

Damico, J.S. (2005) Evoking heads and hearts: Exploring issues of social justice through poetry. Language Arts, 83, 137–146.

Frost, S. & Sibberson, F. (2005) Author studies, School Talk, 10, 1–3.


This qualitative study describes how young children engage in multiple literacies while exploring personal inquiries about Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, LA. The article illustrates the ability of children to ask critical questions, explore alternative perspectives, and engage in multimodal responses to construct and communicate meaning as they take social action.


This article describes the effectiveness of using poetry in a fifth grade classroom with students who initially saw poetry as “sappy.” Through various poems and activities, these students came to see how poetry can be a catalyst for a provocative inquiry question such as, “What does it mean to be American?”


This issue of school talk has articles and ideas by Ralph Fletcher, Aimee Buckner, and Megan Hillegass. It covers author studies from a number of angles, including the perspectives of book authors and teachers. There are lots of practical ideas on how to conduct an author study.

Chapter 8: Responding to Literature through the Arts

Transmediation of a non-fiction chapter by university students:

Highlights the Face to Face peace work of artist JR:

Additional Readings for Chapter 8 from the First Edition of TCL

The following readings focus on the importance of the arts in supporting reading development.

Harste, J. C., (2011).  Seamlessly art.  In R. J. Meyer & K. F. Whitmore (Eds.), Reclaiming reading.  Mahwah, NJ:  Erlbaum.

This article describes a seamless curriculum in which there is constant movement across various sign systems throughout the day.  After reading this article, plan a day in your classroom in which you and your students move seamlessly across sign systems.

Leland, C. H., & Harste, J. C.  (1994).  Multiple ways of knowing:  Curriculum in a new key.  Language Arts, 71 (5), 337-345.

Try replicating the engagement that is discussed in this article in your own classroom and share you findings with colleagues.

Harste, J. C.  (2008).  Visual Literacy.  In Lewison, M., Leland, C. H., & Harste, J. C., Creating Critical Classrooms.  Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum.

Try to analyze some of your students’ art using the visual discourse procedures described in the article.

Chapter 9: Challenging the Challengers

Frequently Challenged Books. The web has great resources for having your class explore issues related to challenged or banned books. The American Library Association’s Frequently Challenged Books webpage is one of the best and is easily found on any search engine. It includes information about banned and challenged books; a listing of challenged books by year, by author, by decade, or by statistics; a link to the Banned Books Week site and associated classroom resources; and much more (

Censors and Children’s Literature. A site we especially like is by Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook (2013). When you click on the “censorship issues” tab ( you are taken to a page called Censors & Children’s Lit. There are multiple sections on this site where Trelease powerfully calls attention to some of the absurdities of censorship.

Text Box 9.1.  Resources for Challenges

Text Box 9.2 Video Resources on Banned Book Week (Freedom to Read)

  • Banning Books in the 21st Century (  This entertaining four-minute video gives an overview of banned books and the future promise of online libraries.
  • Judy Blume for the Banned Books Virtual Read-Out! (  This two-minute video developed for Banned Book Week features frequently censored author, Judy Blume, who discusses the effect that book censorship has on children.
  • Whoopi Goldberg Reads Shel Silverstein—Virtual Read-Out! (  In this one-minute video, actress/Comedian Whoopi Goldberg reads a poem by Shel Silverstein for the Banned Books Weeks' Virtual Read-Out.
  • 2016 Banned Books Week Promo Trailer—Mooresville Public Library( This two-minute video was made by a public library in Indiana. It is an example of what you and your students can do in your classroom for Banned Book Week.  It’s a great way to take action on an important issue.

American Library Association Awards

See: for more information on all the awards

Book Award and Purpose


Newbery Medal: awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

In identifying “distinguished contribution to American children's literature,” the committee considers:

  • Interpretation of the theme or concept;
  • Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity, and organization;
  • Development of a plot;
  • Delineation of characters;
  • Delineation of a setting;

Appropriateness of style.

Caldecott Medal: awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

In identifying a “distinguished American picture book for children,” the committee considers:

  • Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
  • Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;
  • Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;
  • Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;

Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.

Batchelder Award: awarded to an American publisher for a children's book considered to be the most outstanding of those books originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English and published in the United States.

  • The translation should be true to the substance (e.g., plot, characterization, setting) and flavor of the original work and should retain the viewpoint of the author.
  • The book should not be unduly "Americanized."
  • Folk literature is not eligible.
  • Other criteria are similar to Newbery Medal

Aspects of the overall design of the book should be considered, including: illustration, typeface, layout, book jacket, etc.

Pura Belpré Author Award or Illustrator Award:  presented to a Latino/Latina writer or illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

In identifying the author of an "outstanding " book for children, in addition to looking for an accurate and positive portrayal of the Latino culture, the committee considers criteria similar to the Newbery and Caldecott Awards.

Geisel Award: given annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States.

Committee considers:

  • Subject matter must be intriguing enough to motivate the child to read;
  • The book may or may not include short "chapters";
  • New words should be added slowly enough to make learning them a positive experience;
  • Words should be repeated to ensure knowledge retention;
  • Sentences must be simple and straightforward;
  • There must be a minimum of 24 pages.
  • Books may not be longer than 96 pages;
  • The illustrations must demonstrate the story being told;
  • The book creates a successful reading experience, from start to finish;

The plot advances from one page to the next and creates a "page-turning" dynamic.

Sibert Medal: awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in English for children.

In identifying the most distinguished informational book for children, the committee considers:

  • Excellent, engaging, and distinctive use of language.
  • Excellent, engaging, and distinctive visual presentation.
  • Appropriate organization and documentation.
  • Clear, accurate, and stimulating presentation of facts, concepts, and ideas.
  • Appropriate style of presentation for subject and for intended audience.
  • Supportive features (index, table of contents, maps, timelines, etc).

Respectful and of interest to children.

Wilder Award: honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.

The committee considers:

  • Some or all of the books have been available to children for at least ten years;
  • Some or all of the books are exceptionally notable and leading examples of the genre to which they belong;

Some or all of the books have established a new type or kind of book or new trends in books available to children.

Edwards Award: honors an author, as well as a specific body of his or her work, that have been popular over a period of time. It recognizes an author's work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world.

The committee considers:

  • Does the book(s) help adolescents to become aware of themselves and to answer their questions about their role and importance in relationships, society and in the world?
  • Is the book(s) of acceptable literary quality?
  • Does the book(s) satisfy the curiosity of young adults and yet help them thoughtfully to build a philosophy of life?
  • Is the book(s) currently popular with a wide range of young adults in many different parts of the country?

Do the book or book(s) serve as a "window to the world" for young adults?

The Coretta Scott King Awards: honor African-American authors and illustrators who create outstanding books for children and young adults.

These awards are given to commemorate the life and work of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her continuing efforts in working for peace and civil rights issues. The committee considers:

  • Artistic expression of the black experience via literature and the graphic arts including: biographical, social, historical, and social history treatments.

Books that promote an understanding and appreciation of the black culture and experience.

Morris Award: honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature.

The Morris award focuses on books that illuminate the teen experience and enrich the lives of its readers.  The committee considers:

  • Compelling, high quality writing and/or illustration;
  • The integrity of the work as a whole;

Its proven or potential appeal to a wide range of teen readers.

Printz Award: honors a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature.

The award-winning book may be fiction, nonfiction, poetry or an anthology.  The committee has very flexible criteria.  They state:

  • What is quality? We know what it is not. We hope the award will have a wide AUDIENCE but POPULARITY is not the criterion for this award.
  • CONTROVERSY is not something to avoid. In fact, we want a book that readers will talk about.

Criteria change with time. Therefore, flexibility and an avoidance of the too-rigid are essential components of these criteria. What we are looking for, in short, is literary excellence.

Schneider Family Book Award: honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.

Content may be fiction, biography, or other form of nonfiction.  The committee considers:

  • Portrayal of emotional, mental, or physical disability as part of a full life, not as something to be pitied or overcome.
  • Representation of characters with disabilities that are realistic avoiding exaggeration or stereotypes.
  • Characters with disability should be integral to the presentation, not merely a passive bystander.                 
  • The theme must be appropriate for and respectful of the intended audience age.
  • Information on a disability must be accurate.      
  • Excellence of style in writing and illustrations.

Rainbow Book List: is created by the Rainbow Book List Committee of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association.

The Rainbow Book List presents an annual bibliography of quality books with significant and authentic GLBTQ content, which are recommended for people from birth through eighteen years of age.

Additional Readings for Chapter 9 from the First Edition of TCL

Whelan, D.L. (2009a) A dirty little secret: Self-censorship is rampant and lethal. School Library Journal, 55(2), 26–30.

Norton-Meier, L.A. (2009) In defense of crappy literature: When the book is bad but the literary thinking is rich! Language Arts, 86(1), 188–195.

Heffernan, L. & Lewison, M. (2009) Keep your eyes on the prize: Critical stance in the middle school classroom. Voices from the Middle, 17(1), 19–27.


This article starts with the story of a young adult novelist who was sure his new book Boy Toy (Lyga, 2007) would spark controversy when it hit the bookstores and libraries, but nothing happened. The book was getting rave reviews and Awards despite its controversial content. Then Lyga heard stories about how school librarians loved the books but were afraid to buy it for their libraries for fear of complaints. This article describes how many wonderful children’s and young adult books are being kept out of school libraries and what we can do about it.


This article begins with the story of Norton-Meier’s kindergarten class and how one child proclaims, “Now, that was a crappy piece of literature!” This rather shocking statement provides an opportunity for an examination of literacy, identity, agency and power. Critical issues and provocative questions emerge about the importance of “crappy” literature and how we create spaces in our classrooms for students to question, examine, respond, and think in a variety of ways about all types of texts.


This study focuses on ways that sixth graders reacted to the question of book awards and awards in general, positioning themselves as reflective inquirers as they engaged in the regular sixth-grade beginning-of-the-year curriculum—reading books that have been nominated for the state book award. The article focuses on how students examined book awards from four types of critical stance—conscious engagement, trying on alternate ways of being, responsibility to inquiry, and reflexivity.

Chapter 10: Literature Response Strategies

Serebrin & Broderick’s (2009) description of how they used The Teddy Bear by David McPhail (2002) to enact various elements of process drama with second graders.

Process Drama-Serebrin & Broderick