(1) Book selection – How to pick stories suitable for target students?
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- Department of English Language Education
Coni Qiu Jiayi , Year 3 Student of BA(Lang Studies) and BEd(EL) (Co-terminal Double Degree) (2019/20)
Overall speaking, there are four aspects including age, length, depth and learning value to consider when selecting the book.
First stage: Age appropriateness
In the beginning pre-selection process, a target age group should be taken into consideration first. Based on the age group, corresponding cognitive development of this age should be studied. For example, for primary 3 to 4 students, English can be used fluently in simple sentence structure involving basic tenses. They have arrived at the “age of reason” and gradually develop the ability to solve problems on their own. A more complex storyline can be introduced to them to expand their understanding of logic, as they begin to be able to understand that things aren’t always black and white, right or wrong.
Second and Third stage: Length and Depth appropriateness
In the second and third stage, it is noticeable that the attention span of the age can decide the most appropriate length of the storybook. To children of 8 to 9 years old, they can be focused within 7 to 10 minutes. In other words, around 12 to 22 page-length according to the layout of pictures and text are appropriate for them to read. Some values (eg friendship, family, and companionship) are easy to comprehend to children of 8 to 9 years old while others too profound to understand (eg social conflict, remaining historical problems, etc). Looking for content that exposes students to diverse experiences and encouraging them to reflect on their learning process to better cope with questions that appear during growing up are suggested. For example, Not Afraid of Dogs teaches students how to cope with fear; A house is not a home teaches them the value of friendship; and Little Mama forgets tells a story of facing the reality of growing old and forgetful from the perspective of a little girl, which is a unique insight allowing more empathy from children.
Fourth stage: Learning value appropriateness
In this stage, the best practice is to consult authoritative sources like good readers/stories online when you have the ideal books in mind. Another all-solving way is to consult the list for award-winning children’s books each year. Caldecott, John Newbery Medal, and Printz Award are the three most valuable references in choosing ideal storybooks. In order to find the paper version, cross-reference libraries can be reached. As more and more resources are made in digital version, online sources like common sense media can be consulted, which rates books by age and learning value and offers different lists of “Top Picks”.
After conquering the above four stages, teachers are well-prepared to select the appropriate storybooks. The most crucial technique is, of course, to pick books from the perspective of a child; after all, though time flies and technology evolves, we were all once children, and what we want to read cannot fall too far from what our students want to read.