Cultural Issues in Reviewing Illustration

Cheri Anderson, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

Our focus this week is a picture book from Canada, Alego, written and illustrated by Ningeokuluk Teevee and published by Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2009. Ningeokukluk Teevee is an interesting young artist from Kinngait (Cape Dorset), home to the great tradition of Inuit art. The book provides an authentic introduction to the life and world of an Inuit child. Our analysis of the illustrations in this book raises issues about illustration styles that are specific to a particular cultural group and how those styles might be read by viewers outside that cultural tradition.
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Evaluating Illustrations in Reviews of International Picture Books

Cheri Anderson, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

This July blog highlights the need to include more in depth discussion of the illustrations within picture books in published book reviews. The blog entries will each discuss an award-winning international picture book as an example of the kinds of discussion that should be occurring more frequently in reviews.

Illustrations create a depth of meaning within picture books that are essential to the reading experience for that book. Unfortunately most picture book reviews give only basic information about the illustrations, usually just the medium or technique. Although the medium used by illustrators and the techniques for how they create the art is important, many other visual aspects elements are equally as interesting. The complexity of illustrators’ decisions as they go about their creative processes is fascinating. Some of these decisions are also made by the art directors at the publishing companies. Visual decisions such as the book format, size of the book, font selection, and scale add to meaning making for the reader. Through skillful use of visual elements, such as color, line, space, and perspective, the illustrator engages the emotions of the reader and directs the reader’s attention. Just as important as the written text in establishing authenticity in picture books is a close examination of the illustration style and whether it indicates a particular location of where the story takes place and whether the style and the details in the images are authentic to the culture depicted in the book. Further, the illustrations need to be examined for possible stereotypes or inaccuracies.
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Families Matter: Combining Literacy Reflections – Part IV

By Charlene Klassen Endrizzi, Westminster College, PA

    “Books are sometimes windows, offering views of the world that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange… A window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience.” (Rudine Sims Bishop, 1990).

Sharing family stories with children and their families offered eight classroom teachers a window into students’ most powerful literacy environment – their homes. Weekly written conversations in Family Message Journals helped teachers consider the potential for combining home and school literacy communities. In this fourth and final post, I return to our dual goals of valuing families’ life experiences (windows) while also looking outward to the larger world of diverse families (mirrors).
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Families Matter: Reaching Out to Reluctant Parents –- Part III

By Charlene Klassen Endrizzi, Westminster College, PA

Although celebrating student success comes naturally to teachers, tackling student struggles and facing tensions takes a unique kind of willpower. My first two posts considered the usefulness of journals where students dialogue with family members about family stories. One teacher, Anne, noted, “When families participated through regular correspondence, it sent the message –- Parents valued their child’s work.” Family participation also sends a subtle message to teachers that this family values teachers’ work.

Out of the eight teachers using Family Message Journals, five experienced considerable family response. Three, Alicia, Joanna, and Alisa, struggled with a lack of response from their urban families. This week’s post focuses on how these teachers dealt with the resulting tension and made necessary shifts to their journals. Continue reading

Families Matter: Expanding Our Community of Readers –- Part II

By Charlene Klassen Endrizzi, Westminster College, PA

This week, we journey inside a third grade classroom to explore how Anne, a Westminster College graduate student, started using Family Message Journals in spring. Her goal focused on developing more dynamic home-school partnerships with students’ families. She first sent home monthly newsletters and home surveys to share her beliefs and gain an understanding of her families’ home interactions. Her rural school in western Pennsylvania consists of families from predominantly lower socioeconomic backgrounds with over half of the children receiving free or reduced lunches.

During weekly after school sessions, Anne and a small group of reluctant third grade readers collectively explored six different family story books and wrote about the books in their journals. Following each session children shared the book and journal with a parent, grandparent, or sibling at home, who then wrote a response in the family journal before sending both back to school.
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Families Matter: Family Stories and School Literacy — Part I

By Charlene Klassen Endrizzi, Westminster College, PA

Their story, yours, mine — it’s what we carry with us on this trip we take, and we owe it to each other to respect our stories and learn from them.

– William Carlos Williams

“Reading is life!” Laura began as she outlined her view of reading for a colleague. This succinct declaration from a literacy coach in western Pennsylvania contains marvelous implications for teachers, especially those intent on understanding children’s distinct ways of understanding their world. When teachers value students’ resources developed through family and community life, they use these insights to make well-informed literacy decisions. Thus reading events, evolving not from curricular mandates but our student’s rich life experiences, hold the most relevance for children as readers.

Building on Laura’s expansive view of reading, this month’s four blogs focus on building connections across our students’ home and school literacy lives. Throughout this past school year, classroom teachers, graduate students, student teachers, and I explored Family Message Journals (Wollman-Bonilla, 2000) as one possible avenue for creating conversations between children and families. During several weeks in February and March we focused these weekly written exchanges around children’s books depicting family stories. Our intent was to invite students’ first literacy partners, their families, into our conversations about books.

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Invitations and Negotiations: Reflections on a Month of Mondays

By Marie LeJeune & Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

This month in WOW Currents we explored theoretical intersections and instructional challenges to using multicultural and international children’s literature with students of all ages. We began by creating a framework that articulated the theoretical frames that inform our practice and reflection, and provided examples from our teaching experiences in schools, in “out of school spaces,” and with preservice teachers. We heard from a variety of readers who have pushed us as teachers and researchers, and engaged in discussions with each other on the complexity of teaching literature, and our personal journeys as literacy educators. For this last blog entry we’d like to reflect back and respond to some of the issues raised for us around multicultural and international literature as we wrote for WOW Currents this month. Continue reading

Invitations and Negotiations: Preservice Teacher Education

By Marie LeJeune & Tracy Smiles, Western Oregon University

As teacher educators we believe we must engage future teachers in the important work of finding quality children’s and adolescent literature students they or their students might not find otherwise. We encourage students to read a wide variety of recent texts and discourage students from using overly popularized texts, not because we necessarily dismiss the quality of these texts, but because we believe that often texts with the richest possibility for critical, social, and intellectual richness may not be a part of the popular mainstream. Furthermore, we want to expose preservice teachers to texts that portray diverse groups that mirror the students with whom they will eventually work.

This week, following our theme of “Invitations and Negotiations,” we use the framework we created week 1 to discuss our beliefs, challenges, and tensions around sharing international and multicultural texts with preservice teachers.

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Invitations and Negotiations: Informal Spaces

By Marie LeJeune, Ph.D. & Tracy Smiles, Ph.D., Western Oregon University

Again we draw upon our framework that “reflects a mixture of our past experiences as literacy teachers, teacher researchers, and teacher educators, and our current perspectives on literary and pedagogical theories and how they might play out in practice.” Our framework revolves around three main aspects of the literacy invitation — the texts we choose, the literary theories we employ and ground our work within, and the actual pedagogical strategies and methods we engage in with students. This week we consider a new context for invitations — working with students in out of schooled spaces such as after school book groups, literacy clubs, and collaborative research.

This week’s blog focuses on Marie’s past work with a voluntary, after school book group for girls at the high school where she taught. Students met weekly over a semester, to read and discuss young adult literature related to issues of body image and embodied identity. All literature was self-selected by the group of girls and Marie drew on her past work with literature circles (Short, Harste & Burke, 1996) in her classroom to guide her role in the book group and with the girls.
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Invitation and Negotiation: K-12 Classrooms

By Marie LeJeune, Ph.D. & Tracy Smiles, Ph.D., Western Oregon University

Last week we presented a framework that, as we said, “reflects a mixture of our past experiences as literacy teachers, teacher researchers, and teacher educators, and our current perspectives on literary and pedagogical theories and how they might play out in practice.” We will use this framework to describe and reflect on some of those experiences in K-12 classrooms. Our framework revolves around three main aspects of the literacy invitation — the texts we choose, the literary theories we employ and ground our work within, and the actual pedagogical strategies and methods we engage in with students.

We also discussed how important it is for teachers and researchers to claim a theoretical framework that guides their work — this week’s blog focuses on Marie’s past work with 9th grade students at a time when she was first beginning to grapple with and attempt to adopt tenets of critical literacy within her own classroom practice and pedagogy. Marie was preparing to teach Farewell to Manzanar (Houston, 1973), a required text for the 9th grade students at the high school where she was teaching, and wanted to approach issues of multiple perspectives and issues and concerns related to impacts of war. A recent graduate course in critical literacy had inspired her to more fully embrace texts that offered possibilities for deconstructing issues of social justice and equity. At the same time, she was deeply grounded in her beliefs in the importance of response based pedagogy — of honoring the responses and experiences of individual readers (Rosenblatt, 1938).
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