Teaching literature with library books

It’s great to have a class set of books with which to teach literature, especially when students are first learning how to think about what they read and how to discuss books productively. Later, you might like to experiment with having students reading several different books. Here are two ways you might use library books with literature groups.

Genre studies

Have students read books of the same genre—realistic fiction, mystery, science fiction, horror/ghost story, historical fiction, classics, fantasy, humor. Fairy tales are found in the 398.2 section of the library, poetry in 811 and 821. And don’t overlook non-fiction: biographies (921), animals (590’s), U.S. History (973-979), etc.

Author Studies

Have students read books by one particular author. Some authors are so prolific and/or popular libraries may have an entire shelf of their books. At the primary level some good choices for an author study might include the Berenstains, Marc Brown (of the popular “Arthur” series), Nancy Carlson (Louann Pig ), Arnold Lobel, James Marshall, and many others. Since many authors write a series of books about the same set of characters, it’s possible to develop great classroom “character studies.” You might consider these easy-to-read series: Lobel’s “Frog and Toad,” Parish’s “Amelia Bedelia,” Rylant’s “Henry and Mudge,” Sharmat’s “Nate the Great,” Van Leeuwen’s “Oliver and Amanda Pig,” or Yolen’s “Commander Toad.”

At the intermediate level good choices for an author study might include Avi, Banks, Bunting, Cleary, Coville, Dahl, Lowry, Naylor, Paulson or Sachar. Sometimes authors write mainly within one or two particular genres, so you could combine an author/genre study. Coville, for example writes mostly fantasy and science fiction.

Nonfiction writers to read and study might include Gail Gibbons (easy, clear books about how things work and/or are made), Caroline Arnold (animal books) Vicki Cobb (science), Russell Freedman (history/biography), Jean Fritz (biography), Seymour Simon (science).

Approaching literature through the study of books by a particular author allows students to better see the connections between reading and writing. When students are encouraged to find out about the lives of authors they read, they learn more about where ideas for writing come from, and how these ideas are shaped into stories. It is more than likely that they will also learn about the importance of books and reading in writers’ lives–even those who have had to struggle to learn to read or write.

These days there is a plethora of information about authors’ lives and work on the internet. You can search by author’s name, or by keywords such as “children’s authors.” Most publishers also have websites with biographical information about the authors they publish. Many children’s authors, including myself, love visiting schools and talking with students in assemblies and workshops. In addition, many of us do virtual visits. I belong to a great group of authors who do online visits at a low cost. You can find us on onlineauthorvisits.com


From the Writing Curriculum Files of Children’s Author, Suzanne Williams www.suzanne-williams.com