Saturday, September 13, 2014

IBBY, Part Three

One word that keeps coming up here is cosmovision, which in think can be translated as worldview. The Mexican speakers, in particular, don't shy away from topics that have become accepted without question in the U.S. -- didacticism, the inculcation of politically correct messages through children's literature, the many market forces guiding children's literature. The state here has been taking affirmative action to foster inclusion, which is perceived by authors and academics as trying to create a homogenous society, rather than one valuing diversity.

Hans Christian Anderson winner David Almond from northeastern England spoke about how, thanks to the exploratory minds & flexible imaginations children possess, the transferability of experience exists. "All places *are* significant, all places *are* the center of the world." You can tell children what you are intending to mean, he said, but a well-told story will convey meaning without didacticism. Almond said that by writing about tiny things as well as universal concepts, meaning comes down to incidental details, but this is subtle in a world that doesn't value that. He feels that, in observing the messiness of his own process, school inspectors would not think he is doing anything worthwhile in his writing shed.

In the concurrent sessions, I especially enjoyed learning about how multiculturalism is conveyed in children's literature in South Korea and Japan, and am now wary of reduction of culture to 5Fs: "food, fashion, folklore, famous people, festivals."

Tilka Jamnik, president of Slovenian section of IBBY, spoke on a topic closest to my own research. She asked 58 students, about 12 years old, to read paired texts, including comics and tradition narratives, to gauge their comprehension. Jamnik found that the comics format encourage children to read more, but the non-linear format does not encourage improved comprehension. "It seems pupils are more superficial or less exact in verbalizing what they have read.  Just because they reach for these formats doesn't mean they understand."

I was also really engaged with Junko Yokota's comparative study of visual narratives in picture book design, going back to nineteenth century mechanical books attempting motion. Her discussion of digital formats and how engagement and motivation can work against comprehension was very perceptive. Yokota's colleague Ruth Quiroa discussed wordless picture books, free from specific language. Three of the 2014 Caldecott honors were wordless or nearly wordless, and these are the kind of books that travel quickly from one country to the next as they require minimal translation. I have always be interested in these types of books, and in visual literacies and books promoting higher order thinking that are not text-based. I learned IBBY now has a silent book prize, which is also exciting.

There has also been a big distinction drawn between books as literature and books as pedagogical tools. Quiroa feels we need both, but I think I am beginning to see this as a tension that lives between the classroom and the library. The reading levels are so erroneous on some of the best books, students are fed grade-appropriate pablum instead. It's a revelation for me.

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