Learning More Effectively Using Authentic Literature

As students learn and use their oral language, they do it for a real reason or purpose (Halliday, 1975). When they learn to read and write, they must also have this reason and purpose (Wells, 1986). Learning to read and write must be meaningful. The use of authentic literature makes it possible to create many meaningful reading and writing experiences for children in the classroom. These experiences are just like the real literacy experiences one has in life -- reading for fun and to share; reading to find out how to make or do something; writing a letter to a friend telling about a great new book (Cullinan, 1992). By having authentic literacy experiences in the classroom, children will be better able to transfer their classroom learning to real life. We have learned that children learn to read and write together (Teale & Sulzby, 1986). By having many opportunities to hear and read authentic literature and to respond to that literature in a variety of ways, children develop their abilities to use letter-sound correspondences or phonics (Calkins & Harwayne, 1991), and they become more effective constructors of meaning and better critical thinkers (Tierney & Shanahan, 1991).

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