Children's Literature and Literacy

Glenna Sloan

Selected Publications: Articles


The article, "Northrop Frye in the Elementary Classroom," is published online  in the journal, Children's Literature in Education and will appear in print in the journal in  spring of 2009. The online article may be acquired by going to this link:  

or contacting the author at


Northrop Frye (1912-1991) was one of the leading literary theorists of his day, and this article shows the ways in which his theories continue to be relevant for both the field of literary criticism and elementary classroom education today. The author, an eminent scholar in the field of children's literature in her own right and a student of Northrop Frye, presents her interpretation of his major theories as they relate to reading and writing pedagogy in the elementary school classroom. This article may well be as close as we may get to a handbook for teaching the art of literature, as Northrop Frye might have written it.  From Children's Literature in Education

In April 2008 Glenna Sloan delivered a paper on  the application in the elementary classroom of Professor Frye's ideas on literacy development at the annual Northrop Frye Festival in Moncton , New Brunswick , Canada . To read the paper, go to the following link:


"Toward Literacy Through Literature." Journal of Children's Literature. Fall 1997, 47-51

In an issue devoted to literary study and literacy instruction, a discussion of what constitutes literary study.

Excerpt: "Tt is through criticism – talking and writing about our reading – that we study literary works, because they can't be directly taught and learned. In making meaning, interpretations of texts may turn on their psychological, sociological, and historical significance. Study pays attention to the fact that poems, stories and other literary structures are artworks, imaginative structures in conventional forms that contain elements such as imagery, characters, plots, and settings. Helping children to discover that literary works are related to one another by these recurring elements not only gives shape to their individual literary experiences, it also brings a sense of literature as a body of interrelated works rather than a string of separate entities."

"Reader Response in Perspective." Journal of Children's Literature. Spring 2002,22-30.

Discussions of literary theory, including the historical antecedents of Reader Response modes of literary criticism, and of the implications of literary theory, "new" and old, for the development of literacy in the elementary and middle school.

Excerpt: "The new millennium is a post-structuralist, deconstructionist era dominated by critical approaches such as Marxism and feminism, arcane psychological analyses, and reader response variously interpreted and implemented. In Textual Power, Robert Coles (1985, Yale University Press) confirms that in this multiplicity of studies and theories there is little agreement, considerable acrimony, and much debunking. We can find statements that seem obvious and simplistic as well as the old cloaked in new jargon for, as Hazard & Searle comment in Critical Theory Since 1965 (Florida State University Press, 1986, 22): "The problems of literary criticism have a way of returning in glamorous new disguises." Northrop Frye's observation in 1957 in Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton University Press) that literary theory is a field in which "there is much endeavor and little attempt at perspective" (3) is as valid today as it was a half century ago."

Poetry and Linguistic Power" in Teaching and Learning Literature" Sept./Oct. 1998 69-79. This journal is no longer published; to obtain reprints of "Poetry and Linguistic Power," contact the author:

Delivered as a speech at a conference at Connecticut State College, this paper is a discussion, in the absence of empirical studies proving the potential of poetry to develop literacy, of alternative proof of the power of poetry in the development of readers and writers. Examples of classroom action research are included.

Excerpt: '"Poetic language comes naturally to children," comments first grade ESL teacher, Kalie Stern. "They use poetic devices like rhythm and alliteration in their daily speech. I tried to use this fact to begin more formal work with poetry. We experimented with onomatopoeia, sharing poems containing examples. After reading Taro Yashima's Umbrella (Puffin, 1977), where the sounds of the rain are described, the children offered their own sounds for the rain. On a chart I arranged these like a poem — with short lines and lots of white space — and we read them again and again:

Pit pat pitpit pat pit pit

Click clack click clack clack

Sh sh sh sh sh

Tap tap tap taptaptap tap

Pppppp P P P"'

"Children's Literature in Three Tenses: Past, Present and Future." The Dragon Lode, Fall 1999,1-8

A discussion, selective as to time frame, genres, examples, and issues, of where we have come from and where we are going in the field of children's literature.

Excerpt: "The future of reading by children depends upon providing books for all readers. We are still far from this goal... . Children's literature is a barometer for the society. The underrepresentation of some ethnic groups in children's books reflects underrepresentation of these groups in areas other than publishing. One hopes that the future will see these inequities rectified... .There is a postmodern tendency to subvert convention and to question what is taken for granted. These tendencies, which we have already in children's literature, along with the postmodern blurring of genre borders, are likely to continue."

But is it Poetry?" Children's Literature in Education. Spring 2001. 45-56.

At a conference of the International Children's Literature Association in Calgary in 1998, Morag Styles (From the Garden to the Street. Cassell, 1998) declared derisively that poetry for children in the United States was a "mixture of Sesame Street and Oprah Winfrey." Even if this were true, it is not necessarily a bad thing; both icons of popular culture have made positive contributions to literacy among viewers of all ages. The motivation for this article was the hope of dispelling the mystique and snobbery that surrounds poetry. Some critics deny the place of children's poets in children's literacy development, believing that children should be nurtured only by the works of the "great poets" This essay considers, among others, such questions as : What is poetry? Who's to say?"

Excerpt: "Perhaps the distance between "real art" [what Liz Rosenberg in a November 10, 1991 New York Times Book Review insists is the only art for children] and lesser versions of it is not infinite, even in literature. Northrop Frye, for one, saw the literary universe as a continuum encompassing both the literary and the so-called non-literary. 'The points of contact between literary and sub-literary experiences should be kept in mind [when studying literature]; obviously, the same forms of comedy and romance and irony that appear in literature also turn up in television drama or rock ballads" (On Teaching Literature, NY: Harcourt, 1972,18) .

To read an article by Glenna Sloan on Poetry and Literacy, go to the Children's Book Council Website and click on Perspectives. The site includes a selection of articles and resources of interest to teachers.

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