Monday, June 25, 2012

Genres in Children's Literature, LaTrobe University, Lecture 3: Picture Books for Older Readers

Genres in Children's Literature is a course taught by David Beagley at Australia's La Trobe University. Lectures from the Spring 2012 semester are available for download on iTunes U. As I listen to the lectures, I am recording my reflections and responses here on my blog. This post focuses on Lecture 3: Picture Books for Older Readers.

This lecture was of special interest to me because it talked about the developmental differences between small kids and teenagers, and how this has translated over the years in the world of children’s literature. The questions I am asked most often at the reference desk all revolve around these developmental differences. “Is my child old enough for...?” “Is this appropriate for a child reading at this grade level?” “Don’t you think a fifth grader should outgrow reading...” Often what I struggle with is this idea many parents have that they should always be reaching for more and more mature material, so their child can read above grade level or exceed the expectations of his or her teachers. I hear parents telling their kids every day that this or that book is babyish, or that this or that book has too many pictures to be considered “real.” What Beagley said in this lecture, though, is that there are picture books for older readers that are perfectly sophisticated and not just appropriate for older kids, but also actually inappropriate for the younger ones.

I think what I liked best in this lecture was Beagley’s statement that reading is an intellectual activity where the reader interprets what happens, and that reading is very much about cracking the author or illustrator’s “code” for understanding a given story. I have a tendency to share picture books in just one way, no matter the age of the kids. Hearing Beagley say that books for older kids have different story structures that actually demand more from their readers makes me reconsider how I present books to kids at different levels. Older kids might engage more with certain books if I give them the opportunity to deconstruct what the author has created and actually understand how it works. In general, I also look forward to writing some more picture book reviews  where I really consider not just words and pictures, but also color, layout, size, and all the other choices authors make in shaping their stories.

Want to listen along? Click here. Read about David Beagley here. Read my previous lecture responses here.


  1. You have a fabulous blog! I’m an author and illustrator and I made some awards to give fellow bloggers whose sites I enjoy. I want to award you with one of my homemade awards: the Best Books Blog Award. There are no pass along requirements. This is just to reward you for all the hard work you do!

    Go to and pick up your award.

    1. That is so nice, Deirdra! Thank you!


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