Value of Literature-Based Instruction for All Students

There is growing evidence favoring literature-based programs for students experiencing difficulty. Literature offers a rich background from which to learn vocabulary, to accumulate knowledge about written language, and to develop literacy skills (Morrow, O'Connor, & Smith, 1990). Literature-based programs provide a meaningful basis from which to learn skills and strategies (Tunnell & Jacobs, 1989). Literature-based programs can lead to increased use of literature for independent reading and improved attitudes toward reading for students experiencing difficulty in learning (Morrow, 1992). Literature-based programs can also result in higher test scores for those students (Roser, Hoffman, & Farest, 1990).

Gifted and Talented Students

Gifted students benefit from an environment that encourages risk taking, learning by trial and error, and finding solutions to real problems.

Teachers can meet the needs of gifted students by equipping them with strategies for locating resources, by observing and facilitating students' independent work, and by finding ways for them to contribute to the larger community of the classroom and school (Cohen, 1987). Within the context of literature-based programs, there are many such opportunities.

Students Acquiring English

Students acquiring English need a strong and supportive context for learning, one in which they can experiment with language without fear of failure, one in which the acquisition of literacy in a second language is seen as an exciting and meaningful endeavor (Rueda, 1991).

Teachers can encourage students to enhance their oral and written communication with activities such as dramatization and art. In conversations, they can focus on the message students are conveying rather than elements of form, grammar, and pronunciation (Allen, 1991).

Literature and literature-based instruction provide a rich source of language, vocabulary, and syntax in a way that oral language alone cannot. A thematic organization of literature offers ways to extend linguistic support and to offer a variety of reasons to read, write, and talk (Allen, 1991).

Students of Diverse Cultural Backgrounds

Students learn best and are more highly motivated when the school curriculum reflects their cultures, experiences, and perspectives (Banks, 1989). Studies demonstrate that the school performance of students of diverse cultures can be increased when steps are taken to create for them culturally familiar and comfortable classroom situations (Heath, 1983). Perhaps the best documented example of this is the Kamehameha Elementary Education Program (KEEP), with native Hawaiian students (Tharp & Gallimore, 1988). One of the features of traditional Hawaiian culture is that storytelling is a group rather than an individual activity. When classroom practices were restructured to include this type of cultural interaction pattern, dramatic gains in student literacy were seen.

In addition to the academic gains that can be achieved by motivated students with healthy self-concepts, addressing diverse cultural backgrounds in literature also helps students to develop social sensitivity to the needs of others and to understand the similarities as well as differences among people (Norton, 1990). This, in turn, helps students better understand themselves.

See also Multicultural/Diverse Perspective Instruction

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