Fall 2011: English 301
Guidelines for Projects in Children’s Literature

Dr. Tina L. Hanlon

Ferrum College

Children's Literature Course Home Page

General Guidelines

Format for Reports

Topic Suggestions for Oral Reports and Major Papers

1. Focus on a specific genre or subgenre, such as ballads, limericks, wordless books, animal tales, high fantasy, utopias, science fiction, space fantasy, time travel fiction, tall tales, ghost stories, pourquoi tales, trickster tales, Arthurian literature, alphabet books, fables, drama for children, toy fantasies, dream fantasies, island adventures, realistic problem novels, family stories, series fiction, fairy tale films, autobiography, any other type of nonfiction book, . . ..

2. Discuss other works by, background on, or essays by one author or illustrator we are discussing, or one not on the scheduled readings for the class.

3. Examine a theme or type of character as presented in different works, such as uses of food for gratification, reward or punishment; the foolish adult; the person who changes sizes; the misunderstood artist or writer; relationships between child and animal, or child and adult; “home alone” adventures of children; the encounter with a magic object; friendship; importance of names or clothing; use of music; views of death; depiction of a historical event, period or person.

4. Focus on a specific literary or artistic technique in children’s literature, such as decorated borders in picture books, color, cumulative effects in rhymes and tales, word play, horror effects, etc.

5. Focus on a national or regional tradition, such as Japanese or Appalachian or Native American or Irish or Russian or Caribbean or African folk tales or myths or poems.

6. Explore some issues relating to minority images in children’s literature or multicultural literature, or cultural biases in children’s literature. The minorities involved may be defined by gender, class, ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation.

7. Study the influence of a particular artistic method or movement from art history or popular culture on selected picture books, such as surrealism in the picture books of Anthony Browne, the influence of cartoons on picture books, or Renaissance art techniques in illustrated fairy tales.

8. Compare variants of a folk tale or folk motif or myth as found in different cultures. There are many, many variations on Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, the girl vs. the wolf, the young giant-killer, the dragon slayer, the creation of the earth and people, the Flood, the forbidden door or room, the clever wife or daughter, the toy that becomes “real,” the runaway pancake or gingerbread man, conflict with a wicked stepmother or stepsisters, etc. AppLit's Annotated Folktale Index illustrates one approach to comparing different variants of the same tale.

9. Explore some issue relating to translation of children’s literature to or from other languages.

10. Discuss and/or demonstrate storytelling techniques or other methods of oral interpretation or leading discussions about literature with children.

11. Report on an important critic or critical issue in the field of children’s literature. You could build on your reading of one of the critical essays in the Crosscurrents anthology by Examples:

•Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment (Freudian interpretation & defense of fairy tales)
•Any of Jack Zipes’s books that explore folk tales from historical and sociological perspectives
•Defenses & criticism of fantasy by J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Ursula Le Guin or Jane Yolen
•Feminist criticism of folk or fairy tales (by Lieberman, Phelps, Zipes, Stone, Warner, etc.)
•Perry Nodelman, Words about Pictures (important analysis of picture books)

12. Report on some controversies and cases involving censorship of children’s literature. Be sure you include substantial discussion of one or more works of literature.

13. Report on how and where children’s books are reviewed or guides to selecting children’s books.

14. Report on children’s literary works as adapted for, or promoted through, another medium, such as film, drama, television, audio recordings, videotapes, computer programs. This could include comparing works of literature as adapted in different media, such as Disney versions of traditional stories (which have been much criticized and praised); discussing the pros and cons of using different media to acquaint children with literature; analyzing shows that introduce children to literature such as Reading Rainbow or Wishbone (on PBS).

15. Explore some dimension of the margins between children’s and adult literature, by examining works that span both worlds, such as Gulliver’s Travels, Robinson Crusoe, William Blake’s poems, Twain’s novels; or by comparing examples of children’s and adult literature to asses generalizations that are made about differences.

16. Report on the pros and cons of adapting or condensing longer or adult works for younger audiences. Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare is a classic example and there are many others.

17. Report on modern retellings or revisions of traditional literature, such as modernized nursery rhymes, new retellings of folk tales, and new types of fairy tales.

18. Focus on some examples or issues involving young adult literature.

19. Report on magazines for children, past or present, such as St. Nicholas, Cricket, Highlights.

20. Discuss examples of early children’s literature from a historical/social perspective.

21. Report on satires of children’s literature, which are very popular now. Are these satires for children or adults? Books by Sciezkza and Lane, parodies of Good Night, Moon and Pat the Bunny (Pat the Beastie), and many other satiric versions of fairy tales are in the bookstores now.

22. Compare illustrations by different artists of a classic work of children’s literature.

23. Discuss children’s books about the environment, or another type of science books. To find resources on environmental literature, see "Picture Books and the Environment," "Nature and the Environment in Appalachian Literature," Humans within Ecosystems web page, bibliography for "How Green Was My Bedtime Story."

24. Report on your work with a volunteer program involving children and books.

Reminders about research for project and research paper

1. Our librarians can be very helpful with research, including interlibrary loan requests, which must be submitted early to ensure that materials arrive in time to use them this semester (but some articles and books arrive very quickly these days).

2. Internet web sites do not always contain reliable information. Use the guidelines for evaluating Internet resources available through the library’s home page and at the top of my page Links to Online Texts. Your secondary sources must include something besides web sites.

3. To find reliable resources on the Internet, a good starting point is the Links at the Children’s Literature Association web site (see links on home page for this course or in ANGEL Resources tab).

4. Databases available in the library and through the library’s home page provide abstracts and full text of many articles online, as well as reference-book articles that give background on authors and full-text books online. For Contemporary Authors Online and other reliable reference sources on literature, in the Ferrum College Library web site, go to links for Journal and Magazine Articles by Subject Area, then Language and Literature, then Literature Resource Center.

5. Public libraries contain many children’s books and other resources that are not available at Ferrum, such as the reference set on children’s writers Something About the Author, which often includes quotations from the author or illustrator. The Hollins U. library has many children’s literature books, journals, and reference books.

Proposal for Project in Children’s Literature



Statement of Purpose of Project:

Scope or Parts of Project (indicate how your portion fits into whole project if working with a group):

Procedures and Methods to be Used:

Resources to be Used (may include people and written sources):

Final Form in which Project will be Submitted:
(Must include oral report and submitting list of sources to professor)


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This page's last update: 11/1/11