Character Growth: An Exhibit on Children's Literature
Childhood reading builds character and books open young minds to the world and the limitless realm of imagination, and learning. Prior to the advent of mass media communication, books and letter writing were a part of the daily lives of people. Reading letters and books were considered the entertainment of the day. Recreational reading was anticipated with enthusiasm and brought joy to everyone in the home. Additionally, reading to children below age 6 helps them develop critical skills like solving mysteries, recognizing patterns, literacy and diction. In this exhibit, entitled "Character Growth: An Exhibit on Children's Literature," the world's greatest children's writers and famed novelists, explores the most extensive digitally remastered classic children's literature in the world. From Classic Children's Literature titles, Baby's ABC Book to The Velveteen Rabbit - building character in young ones begins with parental guidance and books.
Recreational Reading is an effective way to develop a child’s literacy skill so that they will be successful into their future. The Growing Children through Reading: A "Character Growth: Exhibit on Children’s Literature" engages classic books that can meet the literacy levels of children pre-Kinder to Kindergarten, Middle School and to High School (Head Start and Even Start Greater Collaboration Needed on Measures of Adult Education and Literacy, GAO).
Children ages 0-5 (Pre-Kinder to Kindergarten) like being read to. Ages 0 to 2 are responsive to visual images, while those aged 3 to 5 enjoy tactile learning. This age group are auditory learners who listen and respond to languages being spoken around them, which they mimic through their vocal chords.
Baby's ABC Book is a great book to read out loud to children because of its rhyming story line and color pictures; it also introduces them to letters of the alphabet. Mother Earth's Children: The Frolics of Fruits and Vegetables is another great book that uses rhyme and pictures to teach children about different types of vegetables. This book can be accompanied with real vegetables for them to touch as they associate them with what they hear and see in the book.
Children aged 6 to 7 (1st to 2nd Grade) still like being read to, but they are learning to look at written text, read independently, and classify information. They learn self expression through reading out loud, acting, playing, art making, drawing and practicing writing. 'Twas the Night Before Christmas; A Visit from St. Nicholas is a great book for kids aged 6 because it is a poetic story about Santa Claus preparing for Christmas delivery. It can be read aloud or silently, using the colorful pictures to help students identify the different reindeer that help Santa through the night. For those aged 7, Bambi is a story of a young deer who loses his mother, seeks a mate and learns his father’s lessons about human hunters in the forest. Known as the first environmental novel, this book helps readers understand the difference between good and evil.
Middle Schoolers, between the ages of 11-13 (5th to 8th grades), are entering a time of transition. Cognitively, children in this age group move between concrete to abstract ideas, which may be a bit dogmatic. But like in elementary school, they still like reading out loud, memorizing and enjoying music and the arts. They are learning more about personal independence, and may experience family conflict. Silent reading and self reflective writing about themselves in the world suit this age group.
The Invisible Man can be read by 11 year olds who are interested in exploring the realms of Science Fiction. Written by H.G. Wells, this book features Griffin, a student who had a laboratory accident and turned himself invisible with chemicals. Through a series of events trying to evade the town of his condition, he is eventually tracked down and killed by a mob. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is another tale of injustice, beauty and unrequited love, which could relate to the 13 year olds own feelings navigating social rules, relationships and dreams.
The Story of My Life, about the life of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan, can be read by 12 year old readers interested in stories of resilience despite obstacles. Although Keller was born deaf and blind, she became an influential lecturer and social activist for people with disabilities. The Wonderful Adventures of Nils is a story about a mischievous child cursed into a little person by a mythical dwarf. Twelve year old readers might identify with Nils, who finds himself caught in various trials to prove that he is reformed into a better person, in order to return to human size.
High School youth continue to experience intense emotions of family and relationships, with an expanded sense of school responsibilities and future pressures. It is a time to expose them to literature that expands their thinking on social issues, and prepares them for the challenges of adulthood. Youth aged 14 to 15 (8th to 10th grades) develop capacity for abstract thinking, which includes anxiety, but also exploration of lofty ideas, values and social issues. The Brothers Karamazov could be read by 14 year olds who are thinking about the effects of tumultuous society on the family and the importance of finding love and connection with them despite the changes. Similarly, Romeo and Juliet reflects angst of forbidden love that 15 year olds might be familiar with.
Ages 16 (11th Grade) readers develop their abstract thinking, applying ideas to current and future situations as well as to broader issues. The Metamorphosis is an interesting read for this age level because it is about Gregor Samsa who wakes up as a large insect, which wreaks havoc on his family’s routine. The book raises questions about people living dreary careers and lives, family expectations, and the injustice of being treated as dispensable.
Those aged 17-18 (12th Grade) continue to have abstract thinking but also develop practical problem solving skills. They increasingly demand emancipation and look forward to higher education. For those aged 17, The Lost Continent: The Story of Atlantis could be a great book to expand the imaginations of this group through exploring past worlds, increasing a sense of possibility for their own futures. The Yellow Wallpaper would be a great read for 18 year olds to explore themes of women’s rights and health as was written in a time when women were depicted as mentally weak and fragile, to be controlled by patriarchal medical and professional institutions. This can infuse young people with a sense of history about past injustices, and inspire them to make a difference in their world.
Baum, Lyman Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Chicago: G.M. Hill Company, 1900.
Dostoyevkey, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. (n.p.) 1900.
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Yellow Wallpaper. New York: Feminist Press, 1899.
Gordon, Elizabeth. Mother Earth's Children: The Frolics of Fruits and Vegetables. Chicago: P.F. Volland & Company, 1914.
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Grimm's Fairy Tales. Ed. by Edna Henry Lee Turpin. New York: Maynard, Merrill and Company, 1903.
History of Little Red Riding Hood, The. London: J.L. Marks, 91 Long Lane, Smithfield, 1850.
Hugo, Victor. The Hunchback of Notre Dame. 1831. Reproduced by World eBook Library, 2005.
Irving, Washington. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. (n.p.) 1820. Reproduced: World eBook Library, 2005.
Keller, Helen. The Story of My Life. New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1905.
Lagerlöf, Selma. The Wonderful Adventures of Nils. New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1912.
Lang, Andrew. The Blue Fairy Book. Longmans, Green & Company, 1889.
Moore, Clement Clarke. 'Twas the Night Before Christmas; A Visit from St. Nicholas. Boston: Houghton Miffin Company, 1912.
Saalfield. Baby's ABC Book. World Public Library Association, 2007.
Salten, Felix. Bambi. Trans. Whittaker Chambers. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1929. Reproduced: World Public Library Association, 2007.
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. London: J. Pattie, Brydges Street, Covet Street, 1839. Project Gutenberg Consortia Center, 1998.
U.S. Government Accounting Office. "Head Start and Even Start Greater Collaboration Needed on Measures of Adult Education and Literacy: Greater Collaboration Needed on Measures of Adult Education and Illiteracy." Washington D.C., March 2002.
Wells, H.G. The Invisible Man (n.p.) 1897. Reproduced by World eBook Library, 2002.
Burroughs, Edgar Rice. The Lost Continent: The Story of Atlantis. New York: Ballantine Books, 915. Reproduced: World eBook Library, 2005.
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Children's Literature Collection
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Educational Resource Collection
Project Gutenberg Consortia Center