Introduction to Children's Literature

ENG 280.0934

LaGuardia Community College, The City University Of New York
Spring I 2018


Professor: Dr. J. Elizabeth Clark

Office: E-103H

Office hours: Click here to access the sign up sheet for a reserved appointment. New appointments are available beginning each Sunday. 

Phone: 718.482.5665 (Liz’s office)



Mondays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. in E-217
Online Wednesday - Saturday of each week

(College Catalog)

This course is designed to familiarize students with various types of children’s literature, including folklore, modern fantasy, picture books and realistic fiction. Students also learn how to evaluate the literary standards and pluralistic character of the literature and how to choose books to share with children from pre-school through elementary school. Through a study of works from such authors as Hans Christian Andersen, E.B. White, Virginia Hamilton, Pura Belpre, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Julius Lester, C.S. Lewis, Jamake Highwalter, A.A. Milne and Maurice Sendak, among others, the basic themes of children’s literature will be explored.


A bear on an epic journey from Peru who has a taste for marmalade; a strange storm of spaghetti rain; a wild rumpus that disturbs the sleep of a young child; mail delivered by an owl inviting you to a magic school; secret identities; schools that defy imagination; thoughts turned into reality; a secret garden; a talking spider; a pig who just wants to be loved: children's literature can take us anywhere. It's a tidal wave of epic imagination: where do you want to go today? 

I have a passion for children's literature, or kid lit, as it's known in the industry. I actively write for kids and I read and study kid lit voraciously. I believe that kid lit is some of the most powerful writing in the world because it opens up new ideas to young readers and has the potential to shape their world. It's a place for great imagination, wild adventures, and to learn about the world, both real and imagined. What could possibly be better than that?

In our course, we will cover a wide range of historic and contemporary kid lit, learning how the field has changed over time. You are going to be reading. A lot. And, you'll love it. From fairy tales to schoolroom cafeterias to time travel to Black Lives Matter, our readings will explore the inner lives of children, their imaginations, and how books are a secret space for finding out who you are and who you want to be! The reading for this course is going to be different than any other reading you've done.

Welcome to our wild adventure! I can't wait to get started. 


This section of ENG 280 is a hybrid section of the course. Our course will be a combination of face-to-face (F2F) meetings every Monday during our regularly scheduled course time, 1:00-3:00 p.m. and on-line, asynchronous (on a schedule, but at a time of your choosing) class meetings for our other meeting time each week. You will complete the asynchronous portion of the course through Blackboard. The coursework for these sessions, as well as our face-to-face sessions is outlined in the course calendar. On-line work is available Wednesday each week and is due by Saturday evening. 


The entire course is outlined in the course syllabus, so you can plan ahead for projects, due dates, and readings. Our course will run from Monday-Sunday, Monday being the first day of our week. Each Monday, you will receive a “course reminder” from me in class with the agenda for the week, reminders of what’s due, and what you should be thinking about. Following our f2f class meeting, you should expect a discussion and inquiry topic each week (posted by Wednesday) that is due by Saturday night. In addition to the time you set aside for reading and other homework for Monday classes, please plan on an additional 2 hours a week on-line (at a time of your choosing). Your online work will vary in response to the readings, themes and materials for the week. You will find the material you need in our “Content” folder. In our f2f meetings, we will focus on group discussions, collaborative work, and additional coursework. 


1.    To introduce students to the major works of literature written for children.
2.    To familiarize students with the tools and methods of literary analysis.
3.    To enable the student to apply, orally and in writing, the methods of literary criticism to an          analysis and evaluation of literature written for children.
4.    To examine the recurrent themes, images and rhetorical devices used in children’s literature
5.    To explore the literary context of children’s literature, the relation of children’s literature to forms    such as folk tales and myths as well as to contemporary literary movements and styles.
6.    To investigate the cultural context with which the writer worked as an artist.
7.    To enable students to present literature to children in a variety of settings.


(in Semester Reading Order)

  • Set 1: What's a Children's "Classic"?
    • Choose from E.B. White, Charlotte's Web (Harper Collins, 9780064400558) OR Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach (Penguin, 9780142410363) OR Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden (Harper Collins, 9780064401883)
  • Set 2: Little Kids, Elementary School, and Big Futures
    • Judy Blume, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Harper Collins, 9780142408810) OR Sara Pennypacker, Clementine (Disney-Hyperion, 9780786838837) OR Susan Tan, Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire (Roaring Brook, 9781626725515) 
  • Set 3: YA, Tough Topics, and Censorship
    • Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak (Square Fish, 9780312674397) OR Sherman Alexie, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (9780316013692) OR Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese (Square Fish, 9780312384487)
  • Set 4: We Need Diverse Books, #WNDB
    • Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming (Harper Collins, 9780399252518) OR Raina Telgemeier, Ghosts (Graphix, 9780545540623) OR Benjamin Alire Saenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Simon and Schuster, 9781442408937)
  • Set 5: STEM, STEAM, and all the Science You Can Ask For
    • Jennifer Holm, The Fourteenth Goldfish (Nancy Paulsen Books, 9780375870644) OR Madeline L'Engle, Wrinkle in Time (Square Fish, 9780312367546)
  • Book 6: Sadness in Children's Literature
    • Kate Messner, The Seventh Wish (Bloomsbury, 9781619633760)
  • Book 7: Black Lives Matter: Angie Thomas and the Changing Nature of YA
    • Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give (Balzer & Bray, 9780062498533)
  • Reader's Choice (to be discussed)

So, that's a long list of books. You'll be reading 8 books, some literary criticism, some contemporary articles, some author interviews, and some fairy tales this semester. You *can* purchase these books, if you'd like. If you choose to do that, I do not care if you purchase physical copies of the books or eTexts. However, you HAVE TO HAVE A COPY OF THE TEXT IN CLASS with you.

What I would prefer is that you spend the next week locating and familiarizing yourself with your local library. Where is it? Where is the children's room? And, I would like you to use the library to take out books. All of the books should be readily accessible in your local library. That does mean that you'll have to plan ahead about when you visit and borrow materials. And, just like with purchasing books, you need to have the book in class with you when we discuss it. 

Libraries will form a key piece of our discussion about children's literature, so I'd like you to go to the source, often! 

Additional Materials

  • A USB drive or a Dropbox/cloud account (free)
  • Your CUNY Portal Log In
  • Social Media of your choice (to be discussed)
  • Project Gutenberg (free, on-line:
  • Library


As you know, the world is increasingly wired. If you are uncomfortable with technology, please do not worry. I will help you. We will use a variety of digital tools depending on your interests. Much of my own scholarly work is about teaching with technology. If you are interested in this, let me know and I will share some of the articles I’ve written.


You will receive handouts for each major assignment describing the assignment in detail and the criteria for grading. 

  • 3 Prove It Assignments                                                                30%

  • Project #1: Dream Library Project OR Investigative Project    20%

  • Weekly Blackboard Assignments                                               30%

  • Project #2: Diorama or Sketch Project                                      10%

  • Reader's Choice Presentation                                                     10%

(Rules Of The Quest)



Quicksand is a huge danger in heroic quests. Any good hero knows, if you aren’t in the right place at the right time, you may face unexpected dangers. How do we avoid quicksand? Well, the first way to ensure that you are not sucked into a horrible mire of wet and sucking sand is to be where you’re supposed to be. In short, be here, be on time, and be ready to go. Have your work with you, prepared ahead of time. 




The answers to problems along the way are often found in secret books. Do the reading! Plus, it's children's literature, so the reading is fun! Read! Read! Read! 



You can’t slay a dragon if you’re not paying attention. When you are in class, I hope that you will be fully engaged with your ideas, with your peers, and with me. Our time together is for ACTIVE discussion and work. No sitting in the back row. No texting instead of talking. No sleeping. I want you ready for action! 




Make your own bow & arrow, or lightsaber. You are going to create in this class. You will create a lot in this class as you interpret and explain the importance of children's literature. I'm excited to see what you come up with! 



Detours are often the most informative parts of a journey. Any hero knows, checking out a cool cave or getting stuck on an asteroid just MIGHT give you tools or information you need for a later part of your journey. So, from time to time, I may offer you some extra curricular options that will enhance our understanding of children's literature. 




Do you prefer a bag? A satchel? A battered suitcase? A spaceship? Whatever your preferred method of collection, in this class we’ll be collecting your work and your assignments in your ePortfolio. Your ePortfolio is a record of your journey during your time at LaGuardia. It will highlight work you do in your courses, give you a space to reflect on what you’re learning, and help you document your progress towards your degree. 






No one makes movies about silent heroes. This will be a very interactive, discussion-based class, and I want to know what you’re thinking! It’s important to create an atmosphere where all students are comfortable expressing their views at all times. So this means respecting each other even when our views differ and being generous with each other.



Absent heroes aren’t heroes. They’re casualties. Attendance is not optional. I expect that you will be in both our F2F class AND online unless there is a serious emergency or illness. If you miss class, you will need to make up the work. Excessive absences will lead to failure of the course. This is non-negotiable. If you’re not in class, then you’re not really taking the class, are you?



Technology is cool and helps a hero, but I expect you to apply it selectively. Texting, checking social media, and generally using technology for play rather than the work and focus of our course will count against your participation grade.

That said, I look forward to your creative use of technology in our projects and online work!





The short version: Absence counts. A lot. Come to class on time. Three late arrivals will equal one absence. I assume you want to be in school and you want to learn. So, you’ll want to be in class to do those things! 

The extended version: Attendance at class meetings--both in F2F meetings and online--is required and will play a significant role in my evaluation of your performance. While college is more than just showing up (you can’t pass the class by JUST showing up), showing up is a start. All instructors are required to keep an official record of student attendance. Absences are counted from the first class meeting even if these are a result of late registration or change of program.

The maximum number of absences allowed by the department of English is the equivalent of two weeks or 6 hours for this course. It's worth noting that just because you can have 6 hours of absence doesn't mean you should use all of those hours. Being in class and being present is an important marker of success, motivation, and focus in your work. Please note this INCLUDES our on-line time. Significant attendance issues will negatively impact your grade. After 6 hours or more of absence, you will fail the course. Remember, late arrival counts towards those 6 hours. Tick, tick, tick. Don’t let the clock work against you.  


The College has established an Academic Integrity Policy that describes procedures and penalties for students who are suspected of academic dishonesty. Academic dishonesty is prohibited in the City University of New York and is punishable by penalties ranging from a grade of F on a given test, research paper or assignment, to an F in the course or suspension or expulsion from the College. Academic dishonesty includes cheating, plagiarism, Internet plagiarism, obtaining unfair advantages, falsification of records and official documents, and misconduct in internship. Students who violate the Academic Integrity Policy in this course will fail the course. 
Policy on assigning the grade of Incomplete

As stated in the college catalogue: "The Incomplete grade may be awarded to students who have not completed all of the required course work but for whom there is a reasonable expectation of satisfactory completion. A student who is otherwise in good standing in a course defined as complying with the college attendance policy and maintaining a passing average but who has not completed at most two major assignments or examinations by the end of the course may request an incomplete grade. To be eligible, such a student must provide, before the instructor submits grades for the course, a documented reason, satisfactory to the instructor, for not having completed the assignment on time. Instructors giving IN grades must inform students in writing of the conditions under which they may receive passing grades. Departments may designate certain courses in which no incomplete grades may be awarded.”


Under Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, LaGuardia Community College has an implicit responsibility to ensure that students with disabilities have equal access to its programs and services, and that the rights of students with disabilities are not denied. The Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) provides advocacy to ensure access to all college programs and facilitates the transition to college life for students with disabilities. All students are required to register with supporting documentation. Appropriate accommodations and services are determined and include: 
•    academic, career and personal counseling
•    priority registration
•    academic advisement
•    support services such as assistive technology and tutors; proctoring exams for students.


LaGuardia Community College embraces diversity. We respect each other regardless of race, culture, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, disability and social class. I expect that you will want to work with me to create a classroom climate comfortable for all students as spelled out in the college’s Declaration of Pluralism, which can be found in the college catalog.

(Training, Equipment, And Advice)

yes spongebob.jpg

The Yes List


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YES! Read for class!

Please come prepared, having completed the reading for each class and any assignments by the required due date. 


All classes will be conducted in seminar format meaning you should be prepared and ready to talk, participate, and share your ideas. I want to hear what you have to say! Your classmates want to hear what you have to say!

YES! Ask questions!

Not sure about something? Want to explore it further? Confused? Stop the clock! Ask your questions! We ALWAYS have time for questions!

YES! Outside Research!

Always feel free to bring in other ideas, other perspectives, and information you have found outside of class!

YES! Be Creative!

Have another idea for an assignment? Want to come at it a different way? Want to propose something different? It's your education! Talk to me and we'll figure it out! There is ALWAYS space for creativity here!

YES! Make It FUN!

Learning can be a challenge. But, it can also be fun. Let's make it fun (and challenging). 

YES! Make Time!

You've committed to this class and to your semester. So, let's make time. Make time to do your work well and be proud of what you're accomplishing. Make time to read, to write, to think, to question. Need help with your schedule? Swing by office hours and I'll help you hack your schedule!

YES! Class = Space (and Time)

Our time together is sacred. What I mean by that is: it's set aside. We've made space in our schedules to come together to learn together. So, let's honor that space. The classroom is a space where we can temporarily shut out our worries, our concerns, our other responsibilities. Let's make the most of this space by being in it together fully and mindfully. 

YES! Ask for Help!

I'm here to guide, coach, and help. If you need something, just holler. Let me know how I can help you be successful!

YES! Revisions!

Sometimes, we don't get it right the first time. Major assignments (not homework) are always eligible for revision for a higher grade as long as they are turned in on time the first time!

YES! Growth and Change!

If you're the same person at the end of the semester, with no new ideas, no new thoughts, and no new information, I didn't do my job. Let's all grow and learn together!


The Nope List.

Nope. Nope. Nope.


Nope: Cell phones / Digital Distraction / Music

Please turn off all cell phones and electronic devices and put them away when you come into class unless we are specifically using them for a part of class. 

Nope: Absences

Don't miss more than 6 hours of class including on-line time or you will fail due to attendance. Attendance issues will negatively impact your grade. Three “lates” equal one absence.

Nope: Lateness

Our class meets for 2 hours once a week! If you're even 10 minutes late, you've already missed a significant amount of time. If you do come in late, slip into your seat, focus on what's going on, and don't distract the flow of your classmates' work or our group discussion. 

Nope: Skipping Assignments / Late Assignments

Please complete all the assignments and actively participate in the class to earn a passing grade for this course. Late projects and assignments will be penalized 1/3 of a letter grade per day. Late drafts are not eligible for revisions because you already took extra time. 

Nope: I'm not reteaching a class just for you

If you miss a class, please check Blackboard or the course schedule. Class doesn’t stop just because you’re absent, so please stay on top of assignments. You can also get notes from a class member. 

Nope: Plagiarism

Not your work? Then you didn't earn a passing grade. 

Nope: Packing Up Early

Please do not pack up before class is over.

Nope: Rudeness

This is a special space where we get to exchange ideas and consider how to form and share our ideas. Please don't be rude to one another (or to me!). 


  • 3/2: First Day of Classes
  • 3/7: Last day to ADD or Change a course
  • 3/7: Last day to DROP a class without a “WD” grade
  • 3/18: Last day to drop a course with a “WD” designation
  • 3/19: Withdrawal period begins. Dropped classes have a “W” designation
  • 3/30-4/8: Spring Break. No Classes
  • 5/5: Last Day to to apply for Spring 2018 Graduation 
  • 5/10: Last Day to WITHDRAW from a class
  • 5/28: No Classes   
  • 6/4: Last day of weekday classes
  • 6/5: Reading Day, no classes
  • 6/6-6/12: Finals Week
  • 6/13: Grades Due

Link to Course Calendar