For one morning at least, textbooks were closed and literature in its broadest sense was the focus of new student teachers.
For the past seven years, Language and Literacy instructors in the Faculty of Education, together with the Curriculum Lab and the Bookstore, have joined forces to organize and present a morning dedicated to children's and young adult literature.
Known as The Literature Fair, this Sept. 26 event was designed to introduce student teachers, many of whom have not read books other than textbooks for several years, the value of reading as it pertains to academic success. It also served to highlight the many varieties of literature available for use in teaching across a wide range of disciplines.
One of the new areas of literature featured at the event was the creative non-fiction genre, a new style of literature that combines historical events, real characters, illustrations and a compelling topic. Guest speaker and award-winning author, Shelley Tanaka, introduced student teachers to books such as Mummies: The Newest, Coolest and Creepiest, The Buried City of Pompeii and Climate Change. These books are historically accurate and follow the lives of real people, evoking feelings and emotions in the reader.
Student teacher Erin Lyons associated with the new
"I believe that you connect with a concept so much better if you can relate to it on an emotional level. This is an idea I want to bring into the classroom," she says.
Fellow student teacher Jenna Barlow agrees.
"I think it is so much easier to learn about an event when you experience it through someone who was actually there. I am excited to give examples of creative non-fiction to my future students and to enjoy it myself."
Tanaka also shared with student teachers her philosophy that reading fiction throughout childhood and young adulthood promotes the development of empathy.
"I had never thought of fiction from that point of view but now I realize I strongly agree with Shelley," student teacher Tracy Olson says.
"I always feel differently after reading fiction and sometimes look at the world differently after reading," student teacher Erin Reber adds, "especially after reading an emotionally demanding book such as Night by Elie Wiesel."
Finally, Tanaka encouraged student teachers to pay attention to what their students are reading and to encourage reading by bringing in to the classroom their 10 favourite pieces of great literature.
"This point was interesting because I didn't think it was important to incorporate my favourite books into the classroom," says Suad Ziadeh. "Now I see if teachers put books they love into their own classroom, students will get excited about reading those books too."
If the organizers of theannual Literature Fair wondered about its usefulness for new student teachers, Ziadeh sums up the consensus.
"Does the Literature Fair happen in P.S. II and P.S. III?"
Dr. Robin Bright is a professor in the Faculty of Education