BY MEGHAN VALERIO & WILLIAM BINTZ
Recently, I (William) introduced crossover picturebooks in a graduate literacy course to students pursuing a reading specialization Master’s degree. All students were practicing teachers ranging from elementary through high school. Each week, I read aloud a crossover picturebook to introduce the class session. Selected picturebooks dealt with themes including death and dying, divorce, suicide, mental illness, physical disability, parent-child separation, and other life-changing and impactful events. One example is Dragon by Gro Dahle (2018). It tells the story of Lilli, a young girl who is a child abuse victim by her mother. Lilli regards her mother as a dragon because she is explosive, hot-tempered, and abusive. After reading, I invited students to share their questions and reactions to crossover picturebooks. Three questions and one reaction were particularly illustrative:
These responses inspired this blog post. They revealed teachers may not know much about crossover literature but are curious to know more about it.
What are Crossover Picturebooks?
Crossover literature, or texts written for dual-aged audiences, is not a new genre, as many books could be considered crossover already. While picturebooks specifically might be enjoyed by both children and adults, crossover picturebooks, a subset of crossover literature, are written and illustrated intentionally for both children and adults, breaking conventional assumptions that books are intended for one age group (Falconer, 2008; Harju, 2009, Rosen, 1997). Crossover authors communicate purposeful messages to both audiences equally (Harju, 2009). Narratives then are considered ageless and timeless, often portraying issues that might be deemed controversial including death, verbal and physical abuse, and divorce.
In a world where in-person and online book shopping and borrowing is organized by genre and age, this makes these “ageless” books complex. Consider first an adult purchasing a picturebook for themselves, and on the flip side, encouraging a child to purchase a book about abuse. Both instances could be questionable, even alarming to some.
While there are truly designated texts for children, like aesthetic and sensory appealing babybooks (Kümmerling-Meibauer, 2015), crossover picturebooks defy traditional book categorizing norms, causing anyone interested to rethink what counts as children’s literature vs. adult.
Children’s literature though is written and published by adults for children (Rosen, 1997). So really, is there such a thing as a true children’s book if the text isn’t written by children at all?
What Concerns Does This Raise?
Currently, we are conducting research on crossover picturebooks. Specifically, we are exploring teacher concerns on using this literature in the classroom. Based on this research, two major findings indicate that many K-12 teachers worry about the following issues:
These concerns, and many others like them, are real for teachers. Traditionally, children’s literature is to be enjoyable not uncomfortable, entertaining not controversial. Crossover literature invites a different perspective and pushes the envelope on censorship and what constitutes taboo topics in classrooms. To help explore this further, we recommend the following resources. These resources include picturebooks and professional literature that have pushed our thinking about crossover literature. We hope they will push yours.
Bishop, R.S. (1990). Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Perspectives: Choosing and Using Books for the Classroom, 6 (3).
Falconer, R. (2008). The Crossover Novel: Contemporary Children’s Fiction and Its Adult Readership. London, UK: Routledge.
Harju, M.L. (2009). Tove Jansson and the crossover continuum. The Lion and the Unicorn, 33(3), 362-375.
Kümmerling-Meibauer, B. (2015). From baby books to picturebooks for adults: European picturebooks to the new millennium. Word & Image, 31 (3), 249-264.
Rosen, J. (1997). Breaking the age barrier. Publishers Weekly. 243 (6).
Meghan Valerio is a doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction with a Literacy emphasis at Kent State University. Meghan’s research interests include investigating literacy and cognitive development from a critical literacy perspective, centering curricula to understand reading as a transactional process, and exploring pre- and in-service teacher perspectives in order to enhance literacy instructional practices and experiences.
William Bintz is Professor of Literacy Education in the School of Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum Studies at Kent State University. His professional interests include the picturebook as object of study, literature across the curriculum K-12, and collaborative qualitative literacy research.
BY LAUREN AIMONETTE LIANG
Last year, right around this time, the Fall 2019 issue of JCL arrived in the mail. In the President’s Message I had written a bit about my excitement for the upcoming NCTE conference:
It starts for me with the airplane travel. Coming from my area, it is rare to board a flight heading to a major conference and not encounter fellow teachers, librarians, and researchers embarking on the same adventure. We wave, ask about colleagues and friends, and buzz a bit with excitement. (I often think the other travelers must later wonder about these groups of individuals who are all grading papers and reading thick books, while simultaneously winning all the in-flight trivia and scrabble games.)
Once we arrive at the NCTE city, conference-goers from all over are grabbing bags, looking for shuttles and taxis, and heading off to the area hotels. Immediately there is a shared sense of purpose and anticipation. Conversations break out in the hotel elevators about whether registration is open, and the time of the opening session. Hordes of badge-wearing, tote-bag laden attendees appear in long lines at the coffee stands and take over the sidewalks in their sensible walking shoes as they head off for the day.
And then the conference! Hour after hour of thought-provoking sessions, with speakers addressing the important issues in our field, provoking new ideas, and sharing possible solutions. The vibrant displays of new books in the exhibit hall waiting to be shared by knowledgeable and enthusiastic publishers who offer sneak peeks that might be perfect for your classroom. And, best of all, that amazing shared sense of being present with each other—knowing that the people gathered here care just as deeply as you do about supporting children’s and teen’s literacy experiences and growth.
The Children’s Literature Assembly events at NCTE are a highlight for many attendees. A history of consistent excellence makes our CLA Notables Session, CLA Master Class, and CLA Breakfast the starred events on many personal conference schedules...
Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts AwardS
Join the members of the Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts award committee in a live event on Sunday afternoon from 1:45- 3:00 pm ET. Throughout the fall this blog has featured posts from members of this committee. Join them live for more outstanding 2020 titles and suggestions for classroom use.
Annual CLA Breakfast
Bring your breakfast to listen to amazing author Jason Reynolds, this year’s CLA Breakfast keynote speaker! In a live session Sunday morning from 9:00 – 10:15 am ET, the 2020-21 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature will talk about his writing and more.
Lauren Aimonette Liang is an associate professor at the University of Utah and the current president of CLA.
BY PEGGY S. RICE
Serenity can be found at the intersection of Mother Nature, the animal world and poetry. I have found that the more time I spend at this intersection, the less anxiety I feel. Following are materials and strategies, my students, daughter and I have found successful:
Power of Place
Locate a space surrounded in nature that you can visit regularly. I am fortunate, because I live on 7 acres with a pond. When visiting this space, be prepared to engage in mindful listening, see the world with a poet’s eyes and take notes in a writing journal.
Writing poetry is all about playing with words. Fletcher (2002) encourages us to play with the sounds of words. Consider, rhythm, rhyme, repetition, onomatopoeia and alliteration. He also encourages us to think fragments/cut unnecessary words, consider shape, use white space/experiment with line breaks and end with a bang/sharpen the ending. Each of these aspects of language can be a topic of minilessons connected to poetry performances of mentor poems. Lewis (2012, 2015) has included excellent resources for writing formula poems.
In Beauty May I Walk
--Anonymous (Navajo Indian)
In beauty may I walk
All day long may I walk
Through the returning seasons may I walk
Beautifully will I possess again
Beautifully joyful birds
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk
With grasshoppers about my feet may I walk
With dew about my feet may I walk
With beauty may I walk
With beauty before me may I walk
With beauty behind me may I walk
With beauty above me may I walk
With beauty all around me may I walk
In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age, wondering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk
It is finished in beauty
It is finished in beauty
Calkins, L.M. (1994). The art of teaching writing. (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Fletcher, R. (2002). Poetry matters: Writing a poem from the inside out. New York: Harper Trophy.
Lewis, J. P. (2015). National geographic book of nature poetry: More than 200 poems with photographs that float, zoom, and bloom! Washington, DC: National Geographic Partners, LLC.
Lewis, J. P. (2012). National geographic book of animal poetry: More than 200 poems with photographs that squeak, soar, and roar! Washington, DC: National Geographic Partners, LLC.
Shelton, L. (2009). Banish boring words. New York: Scholastic
Peggy S. Rice is an Associate Professor of Elementary Education and Faculty Advisor for the Partners in Literacy Council at Ball State University in Muncie Indiana. She is a member of the Children's Literature Assembly Ways and Means Committee.