Date of this Version
Published in Broadening the Frontiers of Foreign Language Education: Selected Papers from the 1995 Central States Conference, eds. Gale K. Crouse, Phillip J. Campana, and Marcia Harmon Rosenbusch (Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Company), pp. 33-45.
Teachjng literature is teaching language. When teachers are engaged with their students in a piece of !Jterature, a language-rich experience is assured. While much research has promoted the use of authentic texts and literature in the second language classroom (Birckbichler and Muyskens 1980; BredeUa 1985; Kast 1984; Moeller 1992), this practice is often problematic for the beginning-level second language curriculum. Authentic texts such as shorr stories, poems, and noveL"J often exceed the comprehensible input of students, resulting in frustration. This article suggests the inclusion and inte-grarion of young children's books in the beginning-leve] foreign language classroom (at all levels-middle school, high school1 and college) as a vehicle for second language acquisition. Arguments for the use of young children's books in language, teaching, and learning are numerous (Power-Miller and Ilubbard 1991; Burler and TuroiU 1987; Harwayne 1992). Children's literarure makes use of natural language in familiar contexts. The familiar contexts of the stories allow the readers to make connections between the new information that the text provides and their own background knowledge. The information in the text includes more than just vocabular-y-it involves syntax, flow of language, intonation, pronunciation, and genre. A children's story is typically short and can be read in one sitting. The affective domain is involved in the reading of a story, in that the student associates the reading of a story with recollections of the past. The experience of being read to a~ a child and the memory of stories told by family and friends set the stage for the positive involvement of tfie reader. These memories lower the affective filter as described by Krashen (1982) and allow for meaningful learning to occur. When anxiety is lowered, a sense of community can be established through the shared experience of reading and listening that optimizes the climate for learning.