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Children's literature

This module provides a broad introduction to the vibrant and growing field of children’s literature studies. It focuses on constructions of childhood in children’s literature and will require you to employ close reading skills, literary analysis and critical engagement in relation to its texts and assignments. You will study children’s literature in English, ranging from its beginnings in eighteenth-century chapbooks and fairy tales, through seminal nineteenth-century novels, to contemporary examples of fiction illustrating current trends. The module also includes the study of picture books old and new, stage performance and film, young adult fiction, storytelling and poetry. You will learn about the distinctiveness and purposes of children’s literature, its prestigious and popular modes and its different representations of children’s worlds.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

The study of children’s literature is fast becoming established at both undergraduate and graduate level with its own academic journals and critical literature, and collections of children’s literature are held in many major libraries and museums. In addition, the success of authors such as J. K. Rowling or Philip Pullman suggests that children’s literature is thriving and developing in the twenty-first century. In short, children’s literature matters; it is significant to parents, educators, librarians, psychologists, childhood studies students and students of literature and – most importantly – to children themselves.

In this module, you will study key examples of novels, picture books, poems and creative performance produced for children aged 3–18 years old. These examples are drawn from different periods of Anglophone children’s literature. Alongside the study of these texts and performances, you will read a selection of related critical material and consider some of the major themes, issues and debates in the field. These include the relationship between children's literature and the conceptions of childhood, the question of whether children’s literature should instruct or delight, the tension between popular and prestigious literature for children, and the connection/association between oral, written and visual modes.

The module is organised in six blocks.

Block 1: Instruction or Delight? gives an overview of the field and raises questions about the nature and purposes of children’s literature, focusing on some contemporary best-sellers and the reasons for their importance. It also traces how fairy stories have changed over the years, in response to different anxieties and concerns.

Block 2: Books for Girls and Books for Boys looks at how children and young people’s worlds are constructed differently in two seminal nineteenth-century novels, and examines fictional techniques used to present ideologies in children’s literature.

Block 3: Poetry and Performance introduces a selection of poetry used and performed with children, from early nineteenth-century classics to examples from the present day. You will consider a variety of narrative performance in storytelling, on stage and in film, and explore debates about how childhood is represented to child and adult audiences. 

Block 4: The Prestigious and the Popular: 20th Century Children’s Fiction includes the study of a number of twentieth-century children’s classics, a sampling of the world of children’s comics and a consideration of the controversies around popular authors. The block raises questions about the quality and value of different kinds of literature for children, and the ways in which it is judged.

Block 5: Words and Pictures focuses on the use of images in children’s books – from traditional illustrated books, which grew in popularity through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to more modern picture books, where the images are so central to the story that they often take on a narrative role.

Block 6: Contemporary Trends explores recent examples of different kinds of contemporary children’s fiction, considering changes and continuities in the mood and tone of children’s literature, the media mix from print to electronic in which literature is experienced and the markets through which it is distributed and consumed.

The audiovisual materials relating to each of the six blocks are presented online. The materials include theatre and storytelling performances, interviews with children, authors and publishers, mini-lectures and discussions. In addition, the interactive activities provide an introduction to literary, stylistic and multimodal analysis of children’s literature, to support your work on the set texts.

Vocational relevance

The module is particularly relevant for teachers and children’s librarians.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You'll have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and who you can ask for advice and guidance.

Throughout the module, you will have access to an online tutor group forum where your tutor will post messages and where you and your fellow students can ask questions and exchange experiences and ideas.

This module provides a number of learning events in the form of online tutorials. Although not compulsory, participation in tutorials is highly recommended and will help you consolidate your learning. 

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper. The end-of-module assessment (EMA) must be submitted online through the eTMA system.

Future availability

Children’s Literature starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2022, when we expect it to start for the last time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    End-of-module assessment
    No residential school

    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably with the OU.

    Children’s literature is an interdisciplinary module primarily designed for students who have studied English, literature or childhood studies at OU level 2. Reading and studying literature (A230), Worlds of English (U214) and Childhood (E212) are all excellent preparation for this module. 

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Preparatory work

    Your study will involve reading a number of works for children, including full-length novels. Many students spread the workload by reading some of the set texts before the module starts.

    If you have not previously studied an OU level 2 literature, childhood studies or English language module you may find it helpful to work through some or all of the Reading and studying literature (A230) and Exploring the English Language (U211) modules on our OpenLearn website.


    Start End England fee Register
    01 Oct 2022 Jun 2023 £3228.00

    Registration closes 08/09/22 (places subject to availability)

    October 2022 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2023. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 30/06/2022.

    What's included

    You'll have access to a module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week study planner
    • course-specific module materials
    • audio and video content
    • assignment details and submission section
    • online tutorial access

    You’ll also be provided with a printed study guide, two readers and a play text of Peter Pan.

    You will need

    We recommend you buy the current editions of the set books as listed or the earlier editions listed where these can be obtained. With the exception of the two picture books, it is possible to work from other editions, including Kindle versions, if you have them already. If you do, take care to ensure that you have the full version of Little Women including the second part, ‘Good Wives’, as some shorter editions only include the first part. In some cases, publishers have issued new editions of the set texts with revised pagination. Information about alternative page numbers for the editions will be provided with the module resources.

    Computing requirements

    You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS (10.15 or higher).

    Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

    It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    Materials to buy

    Set books

    • McGough, R. (ed) 100 Best Poems for Children Puffin £12.99 - ISBN 9780141310589
    • Alcott, L.M. Little Women Oxford World's Classics £7.99 - ISBN 9780199538119 This edition includes 'Good Wives'.
    • Browne, A. Voices in the Park Corgi £7.99 - ISBN 9780552545648
    • Gavin, J. **Coram Boy Egmont £7.99 - ISBN 9781405277037 Students can also use the previous edition of this book - ISBN 9781405212823.
    • Naidoo, B. The Other Side of Truth Puffin £7.99 - ISBN 9780141377353 Students can also use the previous edition of this book - ISBN 9780141304762.
    • Pearce, P. Tom's Midnight Garden Oxford University Press £6.99 - ISBN 9780192734501 Students can also use the previous edition of this book – ISBN 9780192792426.
    • Potter, B. The Tale of Peter Rabbit Frederick Warne Publishers £5.99 - ISBN 9780723247708
    • Pullman, P. *Northern Lights Scholastic £7.99 - ISBN 9781407186108 Students can also use the previous editions of this book - ISBN 9781407130224 or ISBN 9780439951784; or ISBN 9781407154169.
    • Ransome, A. Swallows and Amazons Vintage £7.99 - ISBN 9780099572794 Students can also use the previous edition of this book - ISBN 9780099427339.
    • Reeve, P. **Mortal Engines Scholastic £7.99 - ISBN 9781407189147 Students can also use the previous editions of this book - ISBN 9781407110912; or ISBN 9781407152134.
    • Rowling, J.K. *Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Bloomsbury £7.99 - ISBN 9781408855652 Students can also use the previous edition of this book - ISBN 9780747558194.
    • Stevenson, R.L. Treasure Island Oxford World's Classics £5.99 - ISBN 9780199560356 Students can also use the previous edition of this book - ISBN 9780199536078.
    • Burgess, M. Junk Andersen Press £7.99 - ISBN 9781783440627 Students can also use the previous edition of this book - ISBN 9780140380194.
    • Taylor, M. Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry Puffin £7.99 - ISBN 9780141354873 Students can also use the previous editions of this book - ISBN 9780141333342 or ISBN 9780140366259.

    Other materials

    • Barrie, J.M. Peter Pan DVD (2003, Jason Isaacs, Lynn Redgrave, Jeremy Sumpter) Universal Pictures £19.99 This DVD is available from high street or internet retailers, or by searching on

    Note: *Students only need to buy one of these books (for Block 1 and Block 4). ** Students only need to buy one of these books (for Block 6). We recommend you buy the current editions of the set books as listed or the earlier editions listed where these can be obtained. With the exception of the two picture books, however, it is possible to work from other editions, including Kindle versions, if you have them already. If you do so, take care to ensure that you have the full version of Little Women including the second part, 'Good Wives', as some shorter editions only include the first part. In some cases, publishers have issued new editions of the set texts with revised pagination. Information about alternative page numbers for editions listed will be provided with the module resources.

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying EA300 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.