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Language, literature and childhood

This module explores children’s literature from the perspectives of language, literature and childhood studies. You’ll consider issues such as: How do children acquire and use languages and literacies? Why (and how) is language important in children’s literature? What is the difference between literature for children and literature for adults? Why (and how) is literature important for children and young adults? How is childhood socially constructed? And how is the child represented in literature? You will look at these and other issues using a range of children’s literature texts and text extracts.

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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.
Level of Study
3 10 6

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

Language, literature and childhood is ideal if you’re interested in the disciplines of English language and/or applied linguistics, English literature, and childhood studies. You may have studied one or more of these areas previously, but we will provide support if you have not studied these subjects before.

The module is organised into four blocks, each with a particular focus:

Block 1: Contexts and Readers

This introductory block invites you to ask questions such as: How do children acquire and use languages and literacies? Why (and how) is language important in children's literature? What is the difference between literature for children and literature for adults? Why (and how) is literature important for children and young adults? How is childhood socially constructed? And how is the child represented in literature?

Block 2: Voice, Representation and Identity

In Block 2, you’ll study a diverse range of texts for children and young adults, including video games and digital media, non-fiction, narrative fiction and poetry. You’ll consider issues such as ‘What do adult writers expect from their child readers?’ ‘How do texts for children challenge or maintain representations of social groups and communities?’ and ‘What tools and techniques do writers for children draw on in their work’.

Block 3: Practices and Performance

Block 3 is designed to expand your understanding of ‘what counts’ as literature or as reading. You’ll focus on the practices of children or of those who seek to delight and/or instruct children. A recurring theme is the ‘struggle’ between adult- and child-directed practices: this builds on ideas around child agency and relates to the fundamental tensions between instruction and delight in children’s literature.

Block 4: Trends and Futures

In Block 4, you’ll explore how trends in texts produced for children emerge and change. You’ll reflect on the role of storytelling for social change and you’ll consider the role of the publishing, creative and media industries in shaping trends and futures.

You will learn

This module requires you to critically engage with different theoretical and analytic approaches to texts, practices, positions and ideas associated with children and childhood. You’ll develop skills in synthesising information and ideas from a variety of sources and in evaluating critically opposing positions. You’ll also acquire the knowledge, concepts, theories, terminology and skills to articulate considered arguments concerning the nature, contexts, and diversity of writing for, with and by children and their associated practices of reading and writing.

Vocational relevance

This module will be particularly useful for anyone considering a career in teaching at primary or secondary level, working as a school librarian or employment in children’s writing or publishing.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums (some of these discussions feed into your TMAs but they aren’t compulsory).

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.

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.

Future availability

Language, literature and childhood (L301) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2032.


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:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Entry requirements

There are no entry requirements for this module.

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 for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably with the OU, such as our level 2 module, English in the world (L201).

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

Preparatory work

You could get a head start on the module by reading the Set Books:

  • Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce
  • Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • Tender Earth by Sita Brahmachari
  • Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (Picturebook)
  • It’s a No Money Day by Kate Milner (Picturebook)


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 05/09/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2032.

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 receive 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 fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2025. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 23/04/2024.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

You’ll learn through a mix of print and online materials. You'll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assessment materials
  • access to student and tutor group forums.

Where possible, the materials are also available in other formats – which may include PDF, EPUB, interactive ebook (EPUB3), Kindle ebook and Microsoft Word – to enable you to study on the move.

You’ll also receive four printed books – one book for each block of study.

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 Ventura or higher.

This module includes the optional use of specialist text analysis software called AntConc. You’ll be given detailed instructions as to how to download and use this software.

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

  • Cece Bell (2014) (ed) El Deafo* Abrams £8.99 - ISBN 9781419712173 This book is one of three options for students to choose from.
  • Louis Sachar (2015) (ed) Holes Bloomsbury £7.19 - ISBN 9781408865231
  • Sita Brahmachari (2017) Tender Earth Macmillan Children's Books £7.99 - ISBN 9781509812509
  • Kate Milner (2019) (ed) It's a No-Money Day Barrington Stoke £6.99 - ISBN 9781781128817
  • Jessica Love (2019) (ed) Julian is a Mermaid Walker Books £7.99 - ISBN 9781406386424
  • Floella Benjamin (2021) (ed) Coming to England* Macmillan Children's Books £7.99 - ISBN 9781529045444 This book is one of three options for students to choose from.
  • Dean Atta (2019) The Black Flamingo* Hodder £7.99 - ISBN 9781444948608 This book is one of three options for students to choose from.
  • 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.
  • Pearce, P. Tom's Midnight Garden Oxford University Press £6.99 - ISBN 9780192734501

Students only need to purchase one of the three books marked with an * It is recommended to wait until Unit 7 to make the choice between books, as all the books will be introduced by that time.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying L301 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 pages.