Monthly Archives: August 2013

A reflection of my engagement so far..



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My engagement with this unit so far has been very pleasurable. The opportunity to read and discover many wonderful children’s books has been the most enjoyable aspect. Prior to undertaking this unit, I had a strong love for all children’s books. What I have learnt however is that there can be more value to particular books and as a teacher, how I can harness the features of children’s books to develop their literacy skills. Furthermore, I now have a large list of amazing examples of stories I can use to develop my personal library that I am sure I will use as I become a teacher.

In reflection of my engagement, I have developed a list of behaviours I wish to recognise as part of the stop/start/keep model.

Firstly, I wish to stop leaving my formal work for the unit (blog posts in particular) to the last day. This has caused me trouble when I have found myself without internet access for some time as I had no backup plan. My lesson has been learnt here. I endeavour to enter into the second half of this unit with a fresh mind space. Organisation will be the key. I have developed a more detailed study plan and will attempt to follow it better. Leaving work to the last minute is not beneficial to my learning as I do not feel I am able to commit myself fully to the tasks.

Secondly, I wish to start keeping a record of the features in the books I read. Perhaps I will continue a blog like this one to detail the important aspects in each book. While I am reading the books and at the time, noticing the potential usefulness in relation to literacy teaching in the classroom, I am often later finding myself having to reread the book again to continue to remember these factors. A central, digital record could be something of great use for me.

In addition to this, I would love to start making time for myself to read. This unit has made me understand that my love for reading and my desire to become a teacher should not be separate entities. Instead, I can use reading as a way to forever be building knowledge of language features, visual and critical literacy; and as an added bonus, it allows me to take some time “away” from studying to participate in some much needed personal time.

Lastly, I would love to keep reading. By this I mean I would like to make my weekly trips to the library a tradition. My children are thanking me for it and I can see their desire to be surrounded by books, a satisfying accomplishment. Through reading and discussing books with my children, I am not only helping them to see and understand children’s literature in a new way, but also I am using the opportunity to practice my teaching strategies I can later bring to my career.

Critical literacy

Critical literacy is essentially ‘reading between the lines’. While there are many definitions for critical literacy, Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl and Holliday (2010) have outlined one as “reading with a growing appreciation of how argument and viewpoint are presented and supported” (p. 534). This is an interesting concept. It takes on the assumption that text is written with a particular viewpoint and the author, through the writing, has somehow encouraged the readers to react in a certain way. In this sense, critical literacy is the acknowledgement of this and the recognition of such examples in text.

Text is a way of communicating (Winch et al., 2010), for this reason, one might assume the words on a page are the only way the author is communicating to the reader. Perhaps there should be consideration into that is not being said in the words or even how the words (or pictures) are placed on the page. These types of thinking constitute critical literacy. Mulhern and Gunding (2011) express the thought that, as all texts are created by people, it is inevitable that there would be biases, values and attitudes ingrained into the works. It is further stated that through the acknowledgement and understanding of these factors, readers are able to better interpret the meanings behind the text (Mulhern & Gunding, 2011).

Perhaps the most widely used interpretation of critical literacy is part of Luke and Freebody’s Four Resources Model. Within this model, the component of “text analyst” describes a reader who looks for an author’s purpose, can identify points of view and make judgements on how these have influenced the text (Luke & Freebody as cited in Winch et al., 2010). Luke (2012) states that within classrooms, the common display of critical literacy studies are shown through the students identifying author bias and constructing comprehensive meanings by drawing on background knowledge and textual information.

As for how it is taught, critical literacy, according to Makotsi (as cited in Busayo, 2011), is best learnt through exposure to a wide range of reading materials. Xu (2007) further describes the most basic way to incorporate critical literacy into the curriculum is through guided questions. Educators can provoke more critical thinking in relation to a text by asking questions that prompt thoughts to shift into deeper meanings than the ones students might initially identify.

Despite the evidence stating critical literacy is an important factor in developing true understanding of a text, there appears to be no mention of the subject within the Australian Curriculum. The question remains however, to what extent should people be encourage to read with a critical mindset? Does a focus of this nature detour from the purpose when one is reading for enjoyment purposes? These are the factors that could potentially be holding back the inclusion of critical literacy into the Australian Curriculum.



Busayo, I. (2011, Nov). The school library as a foundational step to children’s effective reading habits. Library Philosophy and Practice, 1-12. Retrieved from

Luke, A. (2012). Critical literacy: Foundational notes. Theory into Practice, 51(1), 4-11. doi: 10.1080/00405841.2012.636324

Mulhern, M., & Gunding, B. (2011). What’s critical about critical literacy? English Quarterly Canada, 42(1-2), 6-23. Retrieved from

Winch, G., Johnston, R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L., & Holliday, M. (2010). Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature. South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.

Xu, S. (2007). Critical literacy practices in teaching and learning. New England Reading Association Journal, 43(2), 12-22,98. Retrieved from


Visual Elements in Children’s Literature

Visual elements are an integral part of children’s literature. As picture books are widely used with children, it is important to consider the impact or purpose of the illustrations that accompany stories. Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl and Holliday (2010) discuss how the visual components of a book carry “meaning and power” which in turn can “manipulate certain viewings and certain reactions” (p. 632). Stafford (2010) further explains that pictures that are carefully matched with the words of a story, allow the reader to engage or be moved in ways that might not have been possible without illustrations.

One strong example of effective visual elements within children’s literature is Come down, cat! (Harnett, 2011). This book tells the tale of a cat who will not come down off a roof. His owner, Nicholas is concerned about his cat and what it might be subjected to whilst on its own at night. To start, the front cover of the book shows Nicholas and his cat face-to-face; both smiling; and looking each other in the eye. This suggests the connection the two have. The reader is likely to look at this and conclude Nicholas and his cat are friends.


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Throughout the text, there is a unique use of angles to portray different parts of the story. For example, in the opening of the story where Nicholas is encouraging his cat to come down from the roof, the illustrator, Lucia Masciullo, has included pictures looking up to the house, the roof and the cat. This appears to exaggerate the size of the house and therefore the danger the cat is in. The strategy of perspective encourages the viewer to think and feel a certain way (Winch et al., 2010). Later in the book, when Nicholas is no longer scared of the dangers of the roof, but more worried about rescuing his scared cat, the view is the opposite. It appears the reader is looking down from the roof. This shift of perspective complements the change in storyline.


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Image sourced from

The portion of the story that talks about the “dark strange things” in the night; and the “scratchy, scratchy sounds” (Hartnett, 2011), is emphasised through the use of dark gloomy colours. The objects within the picture also appear to have over-emphasised shadows which adds to the ominousness of the story.

Finally, the visual element of Come down, cat!, which is potentially the most critical or interesting is the part in which the text says “she’d see a ghost wafting over the fence. She’d see a monster with a crumpled-up face” (Hartnett, 2011). The author has used these words to describe to horrible things Nicholas’s cat might face up on the roof at night. However the illustrations take this further by showing an outline of a white owl and pictures of bats. Without these pictures, the reader would not know that this is referring to these two animals and it could change the story into one with much more of a fantasy element than is intended.  



Hartnett, S. (2011). Come down, cat! Melbourne, VIC: Penguin Australia.

Stafford, T. (2011). Teaching visual literacy in the primary classroom. New York, NY: Taylor and Francis Group.

Winch, G., Johnston, R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L., & Holliday, M. (2010). Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature (4th ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.

Language Features in Children’s Literature

The use of language features in children’s literature helps the child to be able to engage with the text in a meaningful way. While a child might enjoy any book, one that is packed with appropriate language features, will enhance that enjoyment into an extension of their language skills (Winch, Johnston, March, Ljungdahl & Holliday, 2010). Further to that, The Australian Curriculum states literary texts can build on students’ existing knowledge and experience through the use of particular form and style (Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority [ACARA], 2013).


One such example of children’s literature is The aunties three (Bland, 2011). This is a humorous story of the unanticipated arrival of the children’s three aunties. Bland (2011) has used a variety of language features throughout the book to not only develop literary skills, but also to build enjoyment for the text.


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The first of the language features that is evident in The aunties three is rhyme. Each line of the book is rhymed with the one before it. For example, the text states: “Get rid of your giggle and banish your whim. Put a dress onto her and a tie onto him. Bring out the biscuits and ready the tea, for behind the door are The Aunties Three!” (Bland, 2011).  In this instance the words “whim” and “him” are coupled to produce the rhyme; as are “tea” and “three”. Rhyming in children’s literature helps to develop phonemic awareness (Winch et al., 2010). When children see the rhyme pattern taking place, they are able to make predictions about the words that are to follow. This is extending on their phonological skills of language (Allor & McCathren, 2003; Winch et al., 2010). Allor and McCathren (2003) also suggest that it is through this type of teaching of phonological awareness that children come to understand the form of language.


Similarly, Bland (2011) includes the language feature of syllables in this text. The author does this through the rhythm of the words. For example, “pack up your games, dismantle your toys”. When reading this, the audience naturally breaks this line into two parts, each containing four syllables. The use of syllables also helps with phonological awareness (Winch et al., 2010). Bland (2011) uses the syllables to put rhythm into his writing. The rhythm allows children to become engaged with the text.


Finally, Bland (2011) cleverly uses onomatopoeia to build the story. This is shown through the use of the words “knock. Knock.”, “crash!” and “rattle rattle” (Bland, 2011). The inclusion of these words adds a dimension to the story where the reader is able to relate to the sounds described. It is through this tactic that the author, once again, has the opportunity to capture the children’s attention.


The aunties three is fine example of how language features in children’s literature can be used to develop their skills and enhance the enjoyment as a reader. Teachers should take these considerations into mind when deciding the types of texts they include in the classroom activities, as the opportunity for literacy advancement is immense.



Allor, J. & McCathren, R. (2003). Developing emergent literacy skills through storybook reading. Intervention in School and Clinic, 39, 72-79. Retrieved from

Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority. (2013). The Australian Curriculum: English. Retrieved from

Bland, N. (2011). The aunties three. Gosford, NSW: Scholastic Press.

Winch, G., Johnston, R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L., & Holliday, M. (2010). Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature (4th ed.). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.