Occasional Paper Series #44

If I Knew Then What I Do Now: Fostering Pre- Service Teachers’ Capacity to Promote Expansive and Critical Conversations with Children’s Literature

by Stephen Adam Crawley

As class dismissed one early November afternoon, Courtney1 and another student approached me with a question. Throughout the semester, we had discussed the important role children’s literature provides as windows and mirrors for youth (Bishop, 1990). On this particular day we had explored a wide range of representations in books, including chronic illness, social class, sexual orientation, religion, and death. She asked, “Dr. Crawley, did you ever have these books in your classroom when you were an elementary teacher?” It was an honest and important question, and one I had often thought about as well.

I said that no, I did not share such children’s literature with my students during my 12 years as an elementary teacher and regretted it. I contextualized my answer, describing how I felt vulnerable as an elementary teacher (largely related to my non-heterosexual orientation), which caused me to self-censor. I recalled how diverse children’s literature or other emphases on supporting diverse youth and topics—to my recollection— was not much discussed in my own undergraduate teacher education program, the primary professional development informing the majority of my teaching years. I explained to Courtney that as a result, one of my course goals was to provide concepts and strategies that would help prepare them in ways I felt unprepared as a teacher.

Read the Full Essay

About the Author

Adam CrawleyStephen Adam Crawley is an assistant professor of literacy education at Oklahoma State University. His research, teaching, and service focus on culturally diverse children’s literature, censorship, technology integration, and content area literacy in K-8 classrooms. Specifically, he explores depictions within, approaches to the teaching of, and stakeholders’ responses to LGBTQ-inclusive children’s literature. Prior to teacher education, he taught in Australian and U.S. public elementary schools for 12 years. His research is published in Voices from the Middle, The ALAN Review, The Journal of Children’s Literature, Bookbird, and Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education.