English course analyzes children’s literature at a deeper level

Pamela Crimbchin

Imagination is at the core of this class

Fairy tales, short stories and picture books hardly sound like the required text for a college-level class – unless the class is Children’s Literature.

“I have recommended the class to others a number of times,” said Kate Hall, senior fine arts major. “Mostly since it was a fun class to take.”

Children’s Literature, an upper division English course, explores children’s stories from an adult perspective, while asking students to revisit their childhood.

“I think it’s important that we have a place in our understanding of how we appreciate our own literature . by what we remember enjoying and what we remember making us think the most,” said Susan Sainato, assistant professor of English.

Take it next semester

ENG 32001

Section 001, MWF 9:55-10:45

Section 002, TR, 12:30-1:45

This spring, students in lecturer Matthew Shank’s section of Children’s Literature will explore myth and folk tales, along with poetry, biographies, and realistic and historical works.

“Although some of the issues we discuss are quite serious, and the students are asked to read some in-depth analysis of some of the works, the books themselves are usually light and enjoyable to read and discuss,” Shank said.

Students in Sainato’s class will look at fairytales, folklore, fables, fantasy and some Disney stories. Sainato said she wants to ask students why or why not Disney movies could be used “to usher people into the world of reading,” among other questions about books interacting with different medias, like video games.

Senior English major Shannen Von Alt took Sainato’s class in Spring 2009 and recommends the class because it’s fun and interesting.

“I enjoyed reading the novels and analyzing them,” Von Alt said. “We did more than just read. We did projects and group work which made it more interactive.”

Hall also said she adored the Children’s Literature class.

“What I liked most was studying the fairy tales and discussing how the tales spread across Europe and how they changed depending on the area,” Hall said.

Sainato said teaching of Children’s Literature has changed since she had her two children. She is able to see which stories her children enjoy that might be considered boring to an adult.

“I think some of those observations and discoveries for me, as a parent, lead to my doing more researching and becoming a better teacher in terms of a broader spectrum of literature,” Sainato said.

The subject matters and interactive classroom environments give students a welcome break from their everyday lecture classes.

“I try to keep the atmosphere relaxed and informal as well, and that seems to help,” Shank said.

One of the most exciting parts for Sainato’s class is when students are asked to create their own children’s stories.

“Time and time again I have students come back and say that was the key thing they remember working with because they got to produce something that represents what they enjoyed best in children’s literature,” Sainato said.

The project can be presented in a number of different ways and with so much creative freedom it can be pretty difficult.

“That project was a lot of fun,” Von Alt said. “It is harder to make a children’s book than I thought.”

Children’s Literature allows students to visit their imagination, while discussing the meanings and messages behind the story. The balance between college discussions and children’s works is enjoyable and exciting for both students and professors.

Contact features reporter Pamela Crimbchin at [email protected]