The following comments are excerpts from a letter Professor Henderson wrote to Perry Nodelman in response to a request for a description of his use of Pleasures with students. İNote that the chapter references here are to the second edition of Pleasures--the equivalent chapters in the third edition are the same through chapter six, after which you need to add one: İthus, chapter 8 in the second edition is chapter 9 in the third edition.
There are several ways I use The Pleasures of Children's Literature in the undergraduate Children's Literature class with education majors:
As an example of a specific use of the book, I'll say a little about the class I'm currently teaching. As I write, we are considering issues related to nonfiction. In yesterday's class, the students read aloud from the section in Chapter 6 called "The World in Children's Books: Non-Fiction?" After having done the reading, they examined various books by Russell Freedman: Buffalo Hunt; Indian Chiefs; The Wright Brothers; Lincoln; F. D. Roosevelt. Their task was to attend to the ways in which the reader may be persuaded by Freedman's style or tone, which may, in fact, "mask" factual absences in the texts. Although these kinds of exercises strike some students as the task-of-the-hour, they do provoke thought and provide discussion.
In this case, the discussion focused on four questions raised by the discussion of nonfiction in Pleasures:
The discussions were quite focused and thoughtful. No one felt there were controversial issues in Lincoln or F. D. R.--they felt that seeing Lincoln lying in state was not traumatic because it was a "historical" event disassociated from children's lives. Likewise, they did not think the inclusion of the F. D. R. affair was inappropriate because the author did not discuss "details" of the affair. However, they did think that "history as story" applied to the Indian texts because of the writing style, which they found persuasive.
"Biography as fable" made for exciting discussion. Yes, they said, Lincoln and F. D. R. might be fable, although these figures seemed more human in these books; but Indian Chiefs was not fable because Native history was fable, and Freedman's treatment was far more realistic. They saw the Indian Chiefs as humans for the first time!
The discussion around these questions progressed slowly at first; the students started with an "I want to get it right because I want full credit" attitude. Once I persuaded them there was no right answer and that was no longer the issue, the discussion flowed, especially as they approached Indian Chiefs as non-fable.
I then directed them to Chapter 2 to discover which pleasures of literature they had experienced in this aspect of nonfiction. They overwhelmingly selected "the pleasure of getting insight into history and culture through literature" and "the pleasure of recognizing gaps in our repertoire and learning the information . . . we need to fill them."
When I asked our three graduate teaching assistants about their uses of Pleasures with students, they all agreed that the undergraduate education majors find Chapter 10 on poetry the most difficult. It's difficult, they agreed, because the students still needed the "fundamentals" of poetry--information about matters such as rhythm, rhyme, repetition, alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia, metaphor, and simile. Nevertheless, I recently received the following comments, along with a package of poems by children, in a letter from a former student (she was in my class in the Fall 1994 semester) who is working with "non-readers" as a volunteer:
Darwin, you are responsible for these poems, which I just had to share with you.
These children told me, just three weeks ago, they could neither read nor write. We've been doing a thematic unit on farm animals, focusing on pigs in particular. We've read together, they've read to me and to each other. We wrote stories and played games. All of their writing goes into portfolios which they grow increasingly proud of.
Using the ideas in Nodelman's book, I read a variety of poems to the children, asking them to listen for rhyme or pattern, pictures the poems formed for them or stories the poems told. After modeling and writing a cinquain as a group, these are the poems my non-readers and writers have produced.
I thank you for all you've given me, which I in turn could share with these young poets!
This is one of the poems the children wrote: