Teaching with Children’s Literature in Initial Teacher Education: Developing Equitable Literacy Pedagogy through Talk about Books


Abstract


Teaching about children’s literature in pre-service teacher education is quite rare, even though research shows it is crucial for teachers to be good at teaching reading as well as being committed readers (Commeyras et al., 2003; Cremin et al., 2009). Emphasis on the reading process can sideline the importance of talking about quality literature to engage students in reading (Simpson, 2016). I have positioned the role of talk about books as a core part of the undergraduate program that I coordinate. In this way, the pre-service teachers of this study were alerted about the ‘fiction effect’ (Jerrim & Moss, 2019), which shows extended reading of literature has potential to improve reading skills for all students.


The paper explores how an initial teacher education course in Australia partnered with local schools to create interactions between school children and pre-service teachers talking about children’s literature. A dialogic approach to learning (Alexander, 2020) was adopted to teaching pre-service teachers to develop equitable literacy pedagogy working with children’s literature. Equity was used as a guiding principle to ensure pre-service teachers would provide children of all backgrounds and abilities the same opportunities to read literary texts. During their education program, the pre-service teachers received letters from school children who wrote about their reading preferences. The letters were discussed for evidence of reading habits and new books were sought as recommendations for children to read. By considering their own reading identities, pre-service teachers collectively developed their knowledge about children’s literature as they developed knowledge of literacy pedagogy. The scaffolding of habits of noticing through iterative discussion (Simpson et al., 2020) helped the pre-service teachers learn about their students, learn from their students, and encouraged them to take a more holistic view of the teaching of reading.


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