Holistic Literature Education as an Effective Tool for Social-Emotional Learning

Holistic Literature Education as an Effective Tool for Social-Emotional Learning

Juli-Anna Aerila (University of Turku, Finland), Johanna Lähteelä (University of Turku, Finland), Merja Anitta Kauppinen (University of Jyväskylä, Finland) and Mari Siipola (University of Turku, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7464-5.ch002
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Abstract

This chapter concerns a model of holistic, structured literature education, which has pedagogical value for social-emotional learning. Fiction supports children's personal growth in many ways. The special emphasis lies on the reading process, which aims at empathizing reading and sharing of text-based emotions and experiences. Further individual and common arts-based meaning-making is an intrinsic part of the reading process. The empathized reading process as well as supportive reading environment need to raise educators' consciousness. Creative, arts-based activities offer channels to make children's interpretations of fictional texts visible. There are several presented examples of arts-based methods for literature education and the family literacy practices that have an impact on social-emotional learning. The methods are individual story ending (ISE), kamishibai theater, silent books, and structured reading moments.
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Introduction

Different emotional disorders and social problems tend to remain stable from early childhood and are often predictive of a variety of negative outcomes in life (Daunic et al., 2013). Therefore, all possible means to prevent this harmful circle are needed. Literature offers a chance to enhance the social-emotional welfare of humans in all phases of life. The same skills that are associated with social-emotional development are also involved in enhancing literacy competences (Daunic et al., 2013). This means that children’s literature serves as an appropriate tool for enhancing the learning of social-emotional skills and the overall well-being of children and adolescents. The social-emotional skills are developed throughout the lifespan (Weissberg et al., 2015). Especially in the early childhood and school-age, they include several skills, like maintaining relationships, making responsible decisions, communicating clearly and appropriately, solving problems, having empathy for others, and recognizing emotions in oneself and others and managing with them (Durlak et al., 2011).

Literature’s pedagogical value for social-emotional learning (SEL) has been recognized throughout the ages; the most ancient stories teach us about how to live a good life (Bruner, 1986) and literature has been seen useful for both moral education and exploring and interpreting one’s life experiences (Vygotsky, 1986). Rosenblatt (1978) underlines the potential of literature for enhancing our understanding of others. In this sense, literature’s high quality and intentional literature education are more important than ever. Through literature, children with different backgrounds can make connections and empathize with each other (Kauppinen & Aerila, 2020a). Literature as a form of art provides us with common ground to experience happenings and express feelings and memories with all of our senses. Issues of language and culture do not matter, while the power of imagination is all that matters (Aerila & Kauppinen, 2021).

Literature education provides a framework for building social-emotional concepts such as empathy and relationships. Fiction supports the reader’s personal growth, with emphasis on the development of reasoning skills, values, and identity as well as the general understanding of human and societal reality (Nikolajeva & Scott, 2013). The power of factual and fictional literature is supported by investigations into children’s and adolescents’ recreational reading. Howard’s study (2013) shows how children’s voluntary reading is motivated by entertainment as well as stress relief and reassurance about their feelings and experiences. According to Morrow (2016), children motivate themselves to be involved with books and reading for pleasure and information. The information, in many cases, is about how to cope with life or feelings. Furthermore, the most proficient readers are called intertextual readers, which refers to the capability for making connections between the text and their lives (Hartman, 1994). Best et al. (2020) investigated children’s reading during the COVID-19 pandemic. They noticed that children value reading as an escape from harsh reality, as a possibility for feeling comforted, and as a chance for reflecting on and coping with negative emotions.

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