BY ADAM CRAWLEY
Before becoming a teacher educator, I taught in elementary public schools for twelve years. The affordances of technology – particularly in connection to literacy and literature – have long been an interest of mine. While I’ve always aimed to stay current with what’s available and to consider increasingly innovative, meaningful, and critical use, I have gleaned much from countless others who are generously sharing resources via social media and other networks…particularly during these past few days and weeks with shifts in instruction due to COVID-19. While an abundance of online children’s literature resources is available – and resources continue to grow from educators, librarians, authors, illustrators, and publishers – Epic! has been particularly helpful in my work teaching a children’s literature course for pre-service teachers at Oklahoma State University.
For those unfamiliar with Epic, it provides a vast collection of children’s literature including picturebooks, chapter books, and graphic novels. As stated on the site’s homepage, users can “instantly access 35,000 eBooks, learning videos, quizzes and more for K-5.” Many of the books available are recent publications and award/honor recipients. The site includes books diverse in representation (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender identity and expression, social class, language, etc.) and genre. Just a few of the many books available include El Deafo (Bell, 2014), When Aidan Became a Brother (Lukoff, 2019), and The Princess and the Warrior (Tonatiuh, 2016). One of my particular favorites is the bilingual picturebook Sora and the Cloud (Hoshino, 2011), exquisite with its soft mixed media illustrations and Japanese translation.
In addition to digital versions of printed books, the site includes audiobooks and “read-to-me” books with the option to add text highlighting. I emphasize to the pre-service teachers the importance of such features for emergent readers.
There are numerous ways to explore what’s available in Epic. Users can type a title, author, illustrator, or topic into the search bar; hover over “Explore” in the menu to see options for various subject areas (such as “narrative nonfiction” in English Language Arts or “geometry” in Math); or browse curated collections by other users. Educators can also add their students – whether K-12 or beyond – and assign books to them within the site.
As I want the pre-service teachers to have access to and use this resource beyond our semester together, I encourage them to create their own free account as an educator. Educators can create an Epic! for Educators account.
Adam Crawley is Assistant Professor of Literacy Education at Oklahoma State University. He is also Co-chair of CLA's 2021 Master Class.