Teaching Picturebooks in First Year Literature Courses


In many universities, first year literature courses are required for students in a wide variety of programs, including arts and sciences. These courses are generally focused on teaching transferable skills and strategies, such as critical analysis, essay writing, and research. This article argues that picturebooks are an exceptional teaching tool for these broadly focused first-year courses, because they quickly engage students as learners, encourage participation, and open students to new approaches of critically reading texts while challenging their assumptions and personal biases about children’s literature. Examples of picturebooks, secondary sources, class discussion, and group work activities used in first year literature courses are shared, along with students’ responses to these approaches. The article ends with an explanation of a short, low-stakes assignment that instructors can assign students to help build essential skills with picturebooks, and exercises to do around picturebooks to work on critical thinking skills. Picturebooks are often perceived as being simple and only for children, but many picturebooks are layered texts that make great teaching tools for any literature course.

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