English 301: Literature for Children and Adolescents
Reading Journal Requirements: Fall 2005   

Dr. Tina L. Hanlon

Associate Professor of English
Ferrum College

Children's Literature Course Home Page

Reading Journal Requirements for Children’s Literature


• The journal provides an informal opportunity to record personal impressions and reactions to the course readings, as well as to develop your ability to consider and try out a variety of literary, analytical, critical, and educational approaches to children’s literature. By using e-mail, you will be able to exchange ideas with others who have read the same literature.

• Occasionally, the whole class will be assigned to write a journal entry with a common focus in preparation for a particular class period. For other journal entries you can use any of the suggestions below. The first required entry is on the class schedule for 9/2.

• Use the journal to record or respond to any extra reading you do, conversations you have with children or adults about literature, observations you make about the importance of children’s literature in the mass media or popular culture, articles or cartoons you find about children’s lit., etc. Any study guides provided for this class or optional readings might provide ideas for journal entries you choose to write.

• The journal may be used to brainstorm and try ideas for your project and formal papers, and record your progress on researching those assignments.

• You may use the journal to make up sample lesson plans or create or try out exercises of any kind that involve responding to children’s literature, or make other notes about literature that will be useful to you if you are planning to be a teacher. You could use part of the journal to store copies of teaching activities that you collect this semester, and make notes on them.

• You may include some creative writing if you are inspired to write a poem, story or play for children or about children’s lit. If you aren’t a creative writer you might still try out ideas about how a story should or should not be illustrated or dramatized, how you would plan a picture book or produce a skit or play, how you would rewrite the ending of a story or change a character, what you would discuss with the author, or how you would encourage children to write poems, plays or stories in response to literature they read.

• If you contribute any bibliography entries (annotated or not), annotated Internet links, study guides, lesson plans, author or illustrator pages, or creative writing to one of Dr. Hanlon's web sites, that can count as part of your journal writing. If you want to send a contribution to someone else's web site on children's literature, that can count, too, if you send me a copy.

• If you attend cultural events on or off campus that are not directly related to children's literature, you may write about them in your journal, as long as you also fulfill the other requirements outlined here.


• Journal entries may be typed or handwritten (as long as they are legible), or sent through e-mail, or some combination of these methods. Date each entry. (That is done automatically in e-mail.)

• If it's on paper, turn in your journal in any kind of folder except big, bulky ones with large rings. Use a format that allows you to keep writing while I have your previous journal entries for several days. When you submit journal entries by e-mail, keep copies and a list of e-mail messages you sent and the dates (or keep printouts of what you wrote in e-mail, if you wish).

• Be sure to turn in your journal at least once every other week. The minimal requirement is that you submit the equivalent of about three typed pages, or 8-10 paragraphs, every other week (7 times during the semester).  If you have urgent demands on your time at some point in the semester you could skip two weeks in a row once and still receive an A or A- on the journal, but don’t let yourself get too far behind and be sure you are normally turning it in or sending e-mail entries at least every other week.

• The journal must include at least a paragraph or two on the assigned readings from each class period.  When there are multiple works assigned on the same day, you can select any of them to comment on; you don’t have to write about every poem or folk tale. When we discuss the novels, you should bring some written comment on each novel to class on the day we discuss it.

• Most entries should be in complete sentences and paragraphs.  For special purposes you can also use fragments and lists, or any format that lends itself to trying out different kinds of exercises.

• You must arrange to read or tell stories to a group of children (any age) at least once during the semester (in a school, library, day care center, etc.). Use the journal to plan this experience and to report on your reactions and assessment afterwards. Failure to complete this assignment will automatically result in a letter-grade deduction on the journal grade.

• Include a combination of comments on assigned readings before they are discussed in class, and some later responses to points made in class discussion or in an e-mail group. (You don’t have to do both every time.)

Journal grades will be based on quantity, fulfillment of these minimal requirements, variety and thoughtfulness of responses, but not on formal writing skills, and they will not be marked for mechanical errors, unless you make a special request that you want me to correct errors or comment on other writing skills you are working on improving. If you fulfill less than 60% of these requirements, please don't complain at the end of the semester when you have an F on the journal grade. (The college catalog defines F as less than 60%.) You can easily get an A for effort on this assignment.

Suggestions for Journal Writing. For other ideas about exploring literature from different points of view, various approaches you might want to try in your journal, see the Suggestions on the lower half of the page at this link.

Sending Journal Entries through E-mail

• You have several options for doing some of your journal writing on e-mail:

  1. Send messages directly to thanlon if you want me alone to read your message. You can use this method for asking me questions about papers you are working on, etc. as well as other comments or questions about the course reading.

  2. Discuss children's literature with a group of students by e-mail. Be sure the messages go to thanlon to get credit for this option as part of your journal writing.
  3. Subscribe to the listserv group called Childlit and participate in its discussion. It has about 1000 members from around the world who discuss theory and criticism of children’s literature every day. If you subscribe to this group, you will receive multiple messages a day from anyone in the group who is participating that day. You have no obligation to respond to any of them at any given time, or even to read them all. If you do not use e-mail for a period of time, all the messages will accumulate in your Inbox until you check them again (unless something goes wrong that erases them or you have used special settings to keep messages from accumulating in your Inbox.) Tina Hanlon is a member of ChildLit and will most likely see any messages you send to that group.
  4. Discuss literature with children or authors through e-mail. Find one or more e-mail “pen pals” by exchanging e-mail addresses with a child or class or someone who works with children. You can easily forward copies of your e-mail correspondence to Tina Hanlon if you want to get journal credit for this discussion. Many authors and illustrators are accessible through e-mail (for example, I have corresponded with Jane Yolen, Tom Davenport, George Ella Lyon, Tom Birdseye, Rex Stephenson and others by e-mail about their work).

• When participating in a group discussion in e-mail, you can respond to “threads” of discussion that are in progress, or initiate new topics by posting (sending) a message to the group with your idea or question. You have the option (if you use the right commands) of sending a response to one individual (if you don’t want the whole group to get it), or sending a response that the whole group will read. If you send inappropriate or insulting or irrelevant kinds of messages to a group, you will receive flames (people will tell you off in their responses and you could be expelled from a group if you try to use the group address for selling something or other inappropriate actions). The Childlit group is very civil and respectful of others’ views.

• Everyone must participate in our e-mail group discussion occasionally during this semester.

• If you want to subscribe to the big listserv group CHILDLIT, go to the listserv website at
http://email.rutgers.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=child_lit&A=1 for instructions on subscribing. For information on ChildLit, go to http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~mjoseph/childlit/about.html. Be sure you use the link labeled Child_lit and The Classroom (by Susan Stan) and read the advice about using Childlit as a student.

September 2, 2005

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