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EQ209-15 and EQ304-15 Children's Literature in Childhood

Department Education Studies

Level Undergraduate Level 2 and 3

Module leader Dr Juliet Raynsford

Credit value 15

Module duration 10 weeks

Assessment 100% coursework

Study location University of Warwick main campus, Coventry


This module explores the psycho/social potential and function of children’s literature in the developing life of the child. It will encourage you to interrogate the theoretical premises, concepts and debates appropriate, and appropriated to, the psycho/social function of children’s literature in childhood.

Module Aims and Outcomes

This module aims to help students gain knowledge and understanding of the child’s processes of psycho/social and cognitive engagement with literary texts, and develop a comprehensive knowledge of a range of key picture books and children’s novel as well as fiction produced for young adults.

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • To interrogate the theoretical premises, concepts and debates appropriate, and appropriated to, the psycho/social function of children's literature in childhood.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of a range of contrasting literary genres, literary structures and formats associated with children's literature.
  • Apply underlying concepts and principles commonly associated with Children’s Literature, and reflect on how key concepts and principles can be applied within educational and professional contexts.
  • Develop understanding of a range of literary methods, analytic approaches and theoretical frameworks commonly applied to critically evaluate and deconstruct literary texts designed to engage children and young adults.
  • To develop research, analysis and ICT skills congnisant with the wider degree and appropriate to the discipline and learning outcomes.
  • The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales
    Students will explore Bruno Bettleheim's (1976) suggestion that fairy tales are the first psycho/social narratives that children are exposed to. Students will be encouraged to consider contemporary disputes and debates, drawn from fields such as feminism, postmodernism and post-colonialism, that explore how fairy tales are packaged and marketed to children at this stage of the 21st century.
  • The Thrill of the Frightening
    Students will consider contrasting theoretical interpretations of the psycho/social benefits of children emotionally and imaginatively encountering elements of fear and the uncanny as a result of their literary choices. Here, students will debate the key questions: 'Why do some children enjoy stories about ghouls and ghosts?' and 'Why is the horror genres so popular with many young adolescents?'
  • The Real Fictions of the Unspeakable
    Students will consider examples of literature that explore real-life scenarios including those that are set during the Holocaust, Nazi Germany and more recent wars and conflicts. Students will explore what ethical questions texts set in these contexts encounter. Students will be asked to consider whether the texts they have chosen to read relating to this genre are empowering for children or whether they push the limits of childhood and children’s fiction in to uncomfortable or unethical territories.
  • Social Issues and Identity
    During these sessions students will consider examples of children's literature that fall into the genre of 'social realism'. This will include considering the ongoing popularity of books such as those written by Jacqueline Wilson and David Walliams that explore issues relating to culture, gender, self-identity, vulnerability, social exclusion and themes connected to the break-down of family, child neglect and abuse.
  • Changing Families
    These sessions will look at the changing nature of literature in relation to childhood over time. Starting with a review of moral tales from the Victorian era through to the present day. The module will end with a look at how contemporary children's literature is depicting the modern family and the place of the child and childhood within it.
Study Time
Type Required
Lectures 10 sessions of 1 hour (7%)
Seminars 10 sessions of 2 hours (13%)
Private study 120 hours (80%)
Total 150 hours
Assessed essay 100%
3000 word essay