Monday, January 30, 2012

Evaluating children's literature

There are many ways of evaluating Children’s Literature. Mary Norton, in Through the eyes of a child, provides a set of questions that expands the material presented in class. You should review these questions and apply them as well when you’re evaluating a children’s book.

1. Is it a good story?
2. Is the story about something I think could really happen? Is the plot believable?
3. Did the main character overcome the problem, but not too easily?
4. Did the climax seem natural?
5. Did the characters seem real? Did I understand the characters’ personalities and the reasons for their actions?
6. Did the characters in the story grow?
7. Did I find out about more than one side of the characters? Did the characters have both strengths and weaknesses?
8. Did the setting present what is actually known about that time or place?
9. Did the characters fit into the setting?
10. Did I feel that I was really in that time or place?
11. What did the author want to tell me in the story?
12. Was the theme worthwhile?
13. When I read the book aloud, did the characters sound like real people actually talking?
14. Did the rest of the language sound natural? (124)

Beyond literary elements we also need to look at the value of the story. Good literature, whether it is intended for children or adults, is multi-layered. Peel back the elements, such as plot and characterization, and ask what effect will that particular book have on the reader.

Edward H. Rosenheim, Jr. Explores the effect of literature on children with the following list of questions from an essay in Only connect:
  • Will this book call into play my child’s imagination?
  • Will it invite the exercise of genuine compassion or humour or even irony?
  • Will it exploit his capacity for being curious?
  • Will its language challenge his awareness of rhythms and structures?
  • Will its characters and events call for – and even strengthen – his understanding of human motives and circumstances, of causes and effects?
  • Will it provide him with a joy that is in some part the joy of achievement, of understanding, of triumphant encounter with the new?

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