March 14, 2012
Dr. Geraldine Smith
Theories of Children's Literature
Without a doubt, there are different theoretical models of childhood development that exist in children’s literature. Children’s literature has been used as a tool to help children identify with the world that they live in. Different philosophers believed that a child’s development occurs in stages and that each stage presented a new challenge for the child. Children’s literature, such as Harold and the Purple Crayon, when effectively used, is a tool that parents may use to help children identify with the stage of development that the child may be going through. The author Owocki (2001) is quoted saying: ‘‘Children’s unique interests, ways of knowing, and dispositions inﬂuence how and to what extent they participate in early literacy events, and in turn, the knowledge they construct.’’ There are several theories of childhood development that parents may find in children’s literature. Parenting for cognitive development is the continual, purposeful engagement by parents with young children in cognitively based activities (Schaub 2004). Several philosophers have provided different theories that outline the stages of childhood development. The philosopher, Jean Piaget believed in the theory of cognitive or intellectual development. He believed that there are four major periods that children go through in their development. The first period is called the sensorimotor period and it occurs roughly from birth to two years of age. As one can imagine, it is a very important period of a child’s developmental stage. During this period, the child is interested only with the things that he or she can see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Children also become concerned with figuring out how to use their hand and legs. This is the period in which it is important to introduce children to the concept of reading. For this reason, there are many books that are written specifically to enhance to the child’s experience during this period. The next period is the preoperational period and it occurs between the ages of two to seven years. This period is extremely important as well because it is the period following the first period and can be very confusing for children. There are two stages in the preoperational period. The first stage is called the preconceptual stage and it occurs between the first two to three years of this stage. In this stage children will become aware of their surroundings, but their views are still somewhat egocentric. However, the second stage is the intuitive stage and it occurs between the ages of four and seven. The children’s views become less egocentric and they become more interested in their surroundings during the latter part of this stage. The next period is called the Period of Concrete Operation and it is the time that children learn to use logic and problem solving skills. Their attention span increases and they become more interested in the people that they encounter on a daily basis. Literature that has multiple chapters and historical information are books that may interest children in this period. The children’s logical thinking ability leads them to search for answers to questions that involve issues of the past. Children also learn to use information from the past to help with situations that may affect the present and future. This is the period that will prepare the child for the final and arguably the most important period that they will have to face. The last period is the Period of Formal Operation and it occurs during the ages of eleven and fifteen. Piaget believed this is the period that a child reaches its full level of maturity. They become more interested with issues of society and the views of others. Most children in this stage are ready for more mature literature because their interests tend to be of a more mature nature. Children in this stage...