Children's Literature and Community
As students begin their school careers, teachers in the early grades (kindergarten and first grade, especially) can use children's literature as a tool to facilitate a feeling of community among the students. Topics such as making friends and interacting with peers, especially those with different cultural backgrounds, and what it's like to start school are among some of the concerns beginning students have when starting school (Nieto & Bode, 2008). By using children's literature that represents the different cultures within the classroom and selecting books that address issues of starting school and friendships, these shared experiences with children's literature will set the stage for learning by creating a starting point for all students to access learning for the school year, in addition to fostering community among members of the classroom. This paper explores the impact of the partnership of children's literature and community building within a classroom on the classroom environment, learners, the curriculum, and assessment. Constructing a curriculum around a universal concern of kindergartners and first graders to address the issues of starting school and making friends in this new environment will allow children to confront their worries together. The impact of the community that results from these shared experiences with books extends to facilitate learning and build necessary social skills for children at this age. Also included within this discussion is a list of references for teachers to utilize to select quality children's literature, according to the criteria that it is appropriate for the readers' developmental and reading level, relevant to the topic, and also culturally relevant, so that readers gain a better understanding of and respect for their classroom community.