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 from recent years.
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.
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 only 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.
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)
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.
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 (11 'Big Sur' 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
- Louis Sachar (2015) (ed) Holes Bloomsbury £7.19 - ISBN 9781408865231
- Jessica Love (2019) (ed) Julian is a Mermaid Walker Books £7.99 - ISBN 9781406386424
- Kate Milner (2019) (ed) It's a No-Money Day Barrington Stoke £6.99 - ISBN 9781781128817
- 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
- Sita Brahmachari (2017) Tender Earth Macmillan Children's Books £7.99 - ISBN 9781509812509
- Cece Bell (2014) (ed) El Deafo* Abrams £8.99 - ISBN 9781419712173 This book is one of three options for students to choose from.
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.