Course Instructor Days Times Room


Literature and Childhood is a survey of literature in English that represents children and childhood. This section of Literature and Childhood will focus primarily on texts written for children, though we may consider some texts composed for adults featuring prominent representations of children and childhood. Our main critical focus this semester will be on the notion of childhood innocence as it is represented in a range of texts from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


Students in Literature and Childhood will be expected to read roughly one middle grade or young adult novel per week; in some weeks, the fiction reading load will be somewhat reduced as students read critical articles to illuminate particular critical approaches to the literature under consideration. As they read, students will be expected to keep a nightly reader-response journal in which they record short passages from the night's reading that stood out to them particularly, accompanied by their own brief (300-500 words) critical responses to those key passages. At least twice per week, students should share aloud from their journals in class, making their insights while reading the core of our class discussion. I will also collect the journals once at the conclusion of the semester for a final journal check. Students will additionally complete two brief oral presentations during the semester -- one at midpoint in which they find on their own a text fitting the theme of our course and deliver a precis of the text to the class and a second during the final exam period in which they briefly present their major research project for the semester. Each of these presentations will be 5 minutes long or shorter. Finally, students will undertake a major research project which will begin early in the semester, and for which they will submit a series of benchmark assignments (proposal, annotated bibliography, draft) throughout the semester before turning in their finished research project at our last regular class meeting for the semester. This research project may be critical (a traditional literary research essay), creative (a short children's manuscript or portion of a longer-form manuscript accompanied by a source-based artist's statement), or pedagogical (an anthology or unit plan accompanied by a justification essay) in nature.


Participation and Journal Shares

Students are expected to comport themselves professionally and respectfully in class and to be active participants in class discussion. To this end, students are expected to share insights from their reader-response journals as part of our class discussion in at least two of our three class meetings per week (with allowances made for weeks in which we meet less than three times or in which we devote class days to activities other than discussion).



Students are expected to keep a nightly reader-response journal. For each night that we have a reading assignment (either literary or critical), students are expected to record one brief passage that particularly grabbed their attention in a journal entry, and to compose a brief (300-500 words) critical response to that passage. The passage may be a WOW, something that grabs the reader because it is particularly beautifully expressed or encapsulates particularly effectively an idea that appeals to the student; or, it may be a HOW, an idea that is difficult to understand or to accept. The goal of the critical response is to write toward understanding, though not necessarily to achieve it -- it's never wise to be unduly certain too early in the reading/writing process. For a WOW, this may mean trying to articulate what, exactly, the reader/writer finds so aesthetically or ideologically appealing. If a HOW is a question of meaning, it will likely mean trying to arrive an an understanding or answer; when the challenge of a HOW is instead that a clearly expressed idea is difficult to accept, however, the goal of the reader response may simply be for the reader to articulate their own position in opposition to that idea. In addition to sharing insights from their journals twice each week, students will turn in their journals at the end of the semester for a Final Journal Check. For this check, students should make sure their journals are reasonably complete (containing entries for each night's reading as well as any in-class writing exercises we may undertake -- I'll give a specific number as the Journal deadline approaches) and should also curate three entries for me to read in their entirety, marking them with page flags. These entries should tell a compelling story about the student's performance in the course, but this need not necessarily be a story of sustained excellence: a narrative of marked improvement or of well roundedness (varied critical approaches; a mix of critical and creative responses) is also a strong approach to this assignment.



Twice during the semester, students will be expected to make brief oral presentations to the class. The first of these presentations will take place the week before semester midpoint. In it, students will locate on their own a text (broadly construed) that fits our course theme; they will then create a handout for their classmates in which they give an overview of the text, and will deliver a precis of the text as it relates to our class. Text Presentations will last 3-5 minutes per student. During our final exam period, students will give a second 3-5 minute presentation in which they deliver an overview of their major research project for the semester (exact content varies depending on which option the student has selected for the research project).


The Research Project

Finally, students will complete one substantial piece of research writing this semester, which they will begin early in the semester with the final project due at our last regular class meeting. All students will turn in the same three component assignments at certain points in the semester -- a proposal, an annotated bibliography, and a draft of the full project -- and will produce roughly the same number of words of original writing. However, students may choose one of three options for the research project: (1) The Critical Option, in which students may complete a traditional literary research essay that states a thesis about the message of one of our course texts and supports that thesis in a series of body paragraphs that use evidence from the text itself and from a minimum of five (5) scholarly secondary soruces; (2) The Creative Option, in which students select one of our course texts as a mentor text, emulating one craft feature of that text in their own piece of creative writing that suits our course theme and explaining in a critical artist's statement what their aesthetic goals were for the piece, making reference to the mentor text and five (5) secondary sources, many of which are likely to be texts about the craft of writing; (3) The Pedagogical Option, in which students select excerpts from five (5) primary texts to use in an anthology or unit plan, accompanied by a source-based critical essay justifying the use of these texts together and employing a minimum of five (5) scholarly secondary sources in that justification.


Your final grade in this course will be based on your completion of the following requirements:

  • Class Participation (incl. Journal shares)


  • Midterm Oral Presentation


  • Research Project (incl. component assignments)


  • Final Journal Check


  • Final Oral Presentation



Literature and Childhood is a discussion-based course, which means that much of what we discover about the themes and techniques that contribute to the texts we study will be discovered through collaborative effort in the classroom. Furthermore, in a discussion-heavy class, not only is each individual’s contribution essential, but so too is the support of the class community for each of its members. Regular attendance is thus essential to the success not just of each student, but of the class as a whole. Consequently, students are permitted a maximum of five (5) absences from ENGL 3430 this semester, for any reason (i.e., “excused” or “unexcused”). From the sixth (6th) absence onward, equivalent to two full weeks of class or more, students may expect their course grades to be lowered by one letter for each excessive absence. If a severe extenuating circumstance will compel you to miss more than five class meetings, I encourage you to notify me of the circumstance and to meet with the Office of the Dean of Students (see below) to discuss appropriate steps.


All students will need to purchase one marble-covered composition notebook or other notebook of the same size with unperforated pages to be used for the reader-response journal throughout the semester. Students should not record additional notes in this book. Students will also need to rent, purchase, or borrow a selection of middle grade and young adult novels; I make it a point to select novels that are widely available at affordable price points, but I also encourage students to use whatever editions of these books (print, digital, used, new) are most accessible to them. As long as each student is able to complete their reading and journal assignments on time and has a book to look at in class, I also encourage book sharing as another way to manage book costs.


A TENTATIVE, PARTIAL list of books we may read this semester includes: Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, PUSH by Sapphire, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor, Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. The syllabus distributed at the start of the semester will contain a full list of books students need to buy or borrow for the semester; additional readings will be made available on eLC and we will read some picture books and watch some television episodes together as a class during the semester.

Makeup Policy

Because Research Projects and Final Journal Checks are due on the last day of class, I cannot accept them late; however, because these projects are to be completed in stages throughout the semester, the end-of-semester burden should not be too onerous for students who are keeping up with the work. Likewise, because the bulk of the remaining course work is participation-based, I am not able to offer make-up assignments; however, because you are required to share from your journal only twice per week and that most weeks of the semester include three class meetings, there is “wiggle room” already built into the semester where journal shares are concerned. All students are expected to be present during all days of midterm week and at the final exam period not only to give their own presentations, but also to serve as a supportive audience for their classmates. If you feel you have a life circumstance that justifies an exception to this policy, please schedule a meeting with me to discuss it, bringing appropriate documentation to the meeting.