Stories Make Readers: Enhancing the Use of Fictional Literature With Multilingual Students

Stories Make Readers: Enhancing the Use of Fictional Literature With Multilingual Students

Juli-Anna Aerila (University of Turku, Finland) and Merja Kauppinen (University of Jyväskylä, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2722-1.ch018
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Using literature in multilingual and second language classes promotes literacy skills and helps children to adapt to second language instruction. This chapter presents the theoretical framework and practical implementations for enhancing the use of literature in multilingual environments employing Stories Make Readers (StoRe)–project as an example. StoRe concept helps to promote the use of fictional literature and to increase the reading materials and reading time at school and at home. An important aim is to offer, in multilingual groups, reading materials that correspond to the reading abilities and interest of the readers, and to connect different collaborative, child-centered, and multidisciplinary activities in reading. The multilingual line of the StoRe project, called Creating Innovative Approaches to Language Education (IKI), identifies and promotes innovative models for the use and development of language in education and creates research-based, pedagogical maps that help teachers develop and improve their pedagogical practices.
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Literature is beneficial for human growth and education: it supports the development of thinking, promotes readers imagination, gives information about life, society, and language, and allows readers to experience various cultures, people, and life situations with empathy (Aerila, 2010; Nussbaum, 2005). It also plays a key role in language acquisition. Using literature in multilingual and second language classes can promote literacy skills and help children adapt to second language instruction. Literature can act as a change-agent because it deals with real-life situations and aspects of humans and can therefore affect children’s development and help establish positive relational and intracultural attitudes (Alverman & Phelps, 1998). In multilingual and multicultural settings, literature can have special value for recognizing cultural roots and affirming identity of individuals. Children’s literature acts as a cultural and linguistic resource for individuals of different ages and gives opportunities for interpretation, reflection, and discussion to children and adults; therefore, it increases the sense of language/cultural community and creates opportunities to be active (Ilyas, 2016; see also Curtin in this volume).

Exposure to fictional books enhances the development of second language skills because reading literature positively affects vocabulary growth, reading rate, the amount of reading, and motivation to read (Lao & Krashen, 2000). Literature can be used in several areas composing second language acquisition (Alisaari, 2016), and it is particularly effective in increasing vocabulary and literacy skills. The connection between literature and word study is an important notion because communication is challenging without sufficient vocabulary (Hulstijn, 2010), and literacy skills are necessary for success in all school subjects (Alisaari, 2016e).

The interest in reading for pleasure has been declining globally over the last decade (Mullis, Martin, Foy, & Hooper, 2017). On the contrary, research has reported that students can perceive reading for pleasure as having a role in improving second language skills, and they believe reading literature can help them in their future studies and support them in becoming active members of society (Lao & Krashen, 2000). Therefore, parents and other adults (teachers) have the important task of developing children´s interest in books and reading. This mostly involves making reading an everyday practice and an enjoyable routine; it can entail, for example, making the readership of others visible and creating meaningful reading experiences for children. The value and meaningfulness of reading can be visualized by access to books, opportunities to share reading experiences, time for reading in comfortable places, and motivational activities to connect literature and reading (Aerila & Kauppinen, 2019; Cremin, Mottram, Collins, Powell & Safford, 2014; Wigfield, Gladstone, & Turci, 2016). Positive reading atmosphere is also important for pleasant reading experiences and creating a community of readers (Bärlund & Kauppinen, 2017). This is the case in both monolingual and multilingual groups (Enz, 2003).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Communities of Readers: Groups of people, where the participants are engaged in reading for pleasure while at the same time interacting with each other.

Bedtime-Story Shelf: A collection of books in the classroom for children. Children loan the books over-night for family reading.

Multilingual Literacy: Interpreting and producing texts with various languages and their variants.

Multicultural Literature: Literature that highlights multicultural themes and strives to tolerance between different people.

AAC-Model: (Amount, Choices, Creativity) A model created by Aerila and Kauppinen on communities of readers. It rests on three pillars: increasing the amount of reading time and books offered, investing in individual choices and various literature (themes, levels of difficulty, and forms) for readers, and offering meaningful and creative activities to work with the experiences aroused while reading.

Literature: Fictional and factual texts with different modes, like oral or multimodal meaning-making.

Family Literacy: The reading culture of a family and its relation to children’s reading.

StoRe (Stories make Readers)-project: A Finnish project which aims at creating communities of readers trough arts-based activities and personal meaningfulness.

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