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Signal Approaches to Children's Books

Signal CoverSignal CoverSignal CoverSignal Cover

Published January, May & September 1970 — 2003

Adults read children's books for a number of reasons, among which are interests in: 

Each issue of Signal collects articles on subjects like these. Appearing three times a year since January 1970, without benefit of commercial advertising or state/institutional subsidy, it has contributors and subscribers the world over. While most of our readers take the journal for professional or vocational purposes, we intend that it can be read for itself. 

Because no single issue is wholly representative, we don't usually offer sample copies of Signal, but will supply three back issues at a reduced price, which will give an intending subscriber a good idea of its range and relevance. 

ISSN 0037-4954 

Note: Short annotations to issues from 1994 – 2003 are available on this site.

 

 

The Signal Companion:

The Signal Companion

ELAINE MOSS & NANCY CHAMBERS 

This classified guide comprises cross-referenced annotations for every article published in Signal's first 25 years: a reference work that also surveys and constructs the subject of children's literature. 

1996, 160 pages, 0 903355 48 5

Short annotations to Signal, issues from 1994 – current are available on this site.

 

Reading Otherways:

Reading Otherways

LISSA PAUL

Lissa Paul's conversational, workshop approach to the practice of multiple readings introduces students to contemporary critical behaviour by exemplifying ways to "think like that". 

Contents: 

Towards a Beginning sets the background, both personal and professional, of applying feminist theory, "one of a cluster of discursive practices", to children's literature. Lissa's summary questions serve as a scaffolding for each reader's own interpretations.  

What the Tales Tell charts Lissa's experiences of interpreting traditional tales and discovering the conflicts and contradictions this involves.  

Reading Little Women makes clear the nature of contemporary response to the Alcott classic and shows how critical attention to it has developed since then. This chapter is a model of one way to "do" books historically.  

Times Change: Carrie's War is a close multiple reading of Nina Bawden's modern classic as well as a demonstration of Lissa getting her readings wrong and attempting to correct them.  

Reading On offers a glimpse of how reading changes as readers change. With a group of teachers Lissa considers an apparently simple book for young children. Together they discover unexpected readings of their world.  

Lissa Paul teaches children's literature and literary theory at the University of New Brunswick. To her work as a professor in the Faculty of Education she brings her training as a scholar, with a doctorate in English literature. Besides writing regularly for Signal she contributes to Canadian, British and American publications. Lissa lives in Toronto with her husband and two young sons. 

1998, 96 pages 0903355 46 9

 

 

Information & Book Learning

Information and Book Learning

MARGARET MEEK

For many years now Margaret Meek has been in the process of moving towards definitive statements about what it is to read, to learn, to understand and internalize and how humans learn these things. Here is another wonderfully illuminating stage on that journey which, like everything else she has written, must stand as required reading. The argument mainly concerns the nature of information books, how children gather and understand knowledge, how they make it their own. Underlying everything is the human urge towards narrative. Why do we tell stories? Meek's answer is stark, perhaps surprising to some, but the words I have long wished to see expressed so uncompromisingly. 'My conviction is that we would die if we didn't...' From this statement of narrative's primacy her whole examination – of textbooks, course books, topic books, the organisation of knowledge, the tensions between authority and exploration, the factual and the imaginative, children's actual processes – proceeds in limpid, clear, informally persuasive prose. 
I shall not attempt to summarize the argument: the whole is too close-packed to do it justice. But there is a small row of essential books on my shelves and this joins it at once, to be frequently consulted. 

Dennis Hamley


SCHOOL LIBRARIAN, February 1997

Margaret Meek is Emeritus reader at the Institute of Education in the University of London. Recipient of the Eleanor Farjeon Award for outstanding services to children's literature, she is the author of the standard works on literacy Learning to Read and On Being Literate (both Bodley Head).

1996, 128 pages, 0 903355 49 3

 

 

How Texts Teach What Readers Learn

How Texts teach ...

MARGARET MEEK

Literature is indispensable to literacy. The case has seldom been made so clearly and with such impact. 
Margaret Meek establishes the necessary connection between literacy and literature and shows the significant reading lessons to be found in the work of Pat Hutchins, Janet and Allan Ahlberg, John Burningham and other makers of good books for children. 

1988, 48 pages, 0 903355 23 X

 

 

Signs of Childness  in Children's Books

Signs of Childness ...

PETER HOLLINDALE

Peter Hollindale suggests that children need to construct their own childhoods of the mind through encounters with imagined childhoods, and contemplates the effect of this idea on adult readings of children's books. 
 
CONTENTS 

Peter Hollindale is Senior Lecturer in English and Education at the University of York. For the Oxford World's Classics he has edited J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and Peter and Wendy (1991) and Peter Pan and Other Plays (1995) and Anna Sewell's Black Beauty (1992). His study Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream (1992) is published by Penguin. 

1997, 140 pages, 0 903355 44 2

 

 

Ideology & the Children's Book

 

PETER HOLLINDALE

"Our priority in the world of children's books should not be to promote ideology but to understand it, and find ways of helping others to understand it, including the children's themselves." A reprint of a Signal article, which received the Children's Literature Association Award as the best critical article of its year. 

1988, 20 pages, 0 903355 26 4

 

 

Looking at Pictures in Picture Books

Looking at Pictures ...

JANE DOONAN

"Jane Doonan urges us to lead children to picture books with an open mind, to pore unhurriedly over the illustrations, and to understand how they complement, elaborate, extend or even contradict the text. By discussing two books in detail she shows us how 'close looking' brings rewards ... includes a most useful teaching unit of four to six weeks for twelve-year-olds ... two sections provide recommended reading to develop theoretical understanding and a summary of the terminology needed to articulate 'the source of ones's pleasure', the latter accompanied by in-depth comment on two specific plates from Anthony Browne and Maurice Sendak ... an absolutely riveting read." School Librarian

Looking at Pictures in Picture Books developed from a decade of Jane Doonan's contributions to Signal on contemporary picture-book artists. 

1993, 96 pages, 0 903355 40X

 

 

Storytelling

 

(out of print)

EILEEN COLWELL

The pioneer children's librarian and internationally renowned storyteller covers the basics: selecting the story, patterning the session, adapting the story for telling, keeping a story notebook, improving voice and speech, facing the audience. 

1991, 96 pages, 0 903355 35 3

 

 

Reading Talk.

Reading Talk

AIDAN CHAMBERS:

A Collection of Writings about Youth Literature, Translation and the Value of Reading.

Thimble Press, ISBN: 0903355507, 176 pages, GBP 14.50 (US$25)

 

 

 

The Reading Environment: How adults help children enjoy books

The Reading Environment ...

AIDAN CHAMBERS

A collection of practical advice and comment on what can be done in schools to help children become thoughtful, willing readers. 

1991, 96 pages, 0 903355 36 1 (US edn Stenhouse.)

Note: Aidan Chambers is also author of several acclaimed children's books like Breaktime, Dance on My Grave, The Tollbridge, Seal Secret and Pictures from No-mansland.

 

 

Tell Me: Children, Reading & Talk

Tell Me ...

AIDAN CHAMBERS

HOW ADULTS HELP CHILDREN TALK WELL ABOUT BOOKS

'In any group of children ... we find that if they begin by sharing their most obvious observations they soon accumulate a body of understanding that reveals the heart of a text and its meaning(s) for them all. Even when quite complicated or abstract ideas are approached this way (through story images and talked-out interpretations) there is little that children cannot grasp. In this activity there is a balance to be found between respect for the rights of the individual as a reader and talker and the corporately composed reading of the group – the community text which is always more complex and insightful than one individual reading can ever be.' 

Tell Me offers practical information about book-talking in the classroom, explaining some of the processes and outlining the ground rules developed by experienced practitioners. From their experience has been formulated a Framework, 'a repertoire of questions that assist readers in speaking out their reading' . 

(from the back cover of the book)

1993, 128 pages, 0 903355 42 6 (US edn Stenhouse.)

Tell Me is the companion to The Reading Environment by Aidan Chambers 
(Thimble Press, 1991). 

 

 

Booktalk: Occasional Writing on Literature & Children

 

AIDAN CHAMBERS

Aidan Chambers was a teacher of English and Drama and a school librarian before becoming a first-time writer. His best-known books are his novels for young adults: Breaktime, Dance on my Grave, Now I Know and The Toll Bridge; and his stories for children: Seal Secret and The Present Takers. His work as a lecturer has taken him to many countries, especially frequent visits to Australia, Canada, the U.S.A., Sweden, and Holland. Since 1970 he has taught courses in children's books for in-service teachers and, since 1982, has been a visiting lecturer in children's literature for pre-service students at Westminster College, Oxford. 

In this collection of some of his lectures, articles and essays (1976 – 1985), Aidan Chambers discusses literature, children, and the role of adults in bringing the two together. Included are the influential pieces 'The Reader in the Book', which gained for him the Children's Literature Association award for excellence in literary criticism, and 'Tell Me: Are Children Critics?', which he has recently expanded into a book: Tell Me: Children, Reading and Talk, published as a companion volume to The Reading Environment (both Thimble Press, U.K., and Stenhouse Publishers, U.S.A.). 

Booktalk presents ideas and descriptions of practical teaching experience that will be of invaluable help to everyone interested in literature, children and education. 

(from the back cover of the book)

Personal note: Booktalk also includes two essays on Aidan Chambers' own children's books Breaktime and Dance on My Grave. (C K)

1995 reissue, 192 pages, 0 903355 47 7
First published by The Bodley Head.

 

 

Read with Me: An Apprenticeship Approach to Reading

Read with me ...

LIZ WATERLAND

A infant-school headteacher's personal account of placing children's literature at the centre of helping children learn to read. In OFSTED's annual report (1996) her school was named as one of 82 particularly successful primary, middle and nursery schools in England. 

2nd revised edn. 1988, 64 pages 0 903355 27 2

currently out of print

 

Apprenticeship in Action: Teachers Write about Read with Me

 

LIZ WATERLAND, Editor

An album of classroom responses to the ideas in Read with Me.

1989, 104 pages, 0 903355 31 0

 

 

Learning to Read with Picture Books

 

A Signal Bookguide by JILL BENNETT

One of the first experienced-based accounts of helping children "learn to read by reading" literature, this bookguide (first edition 1979) and Read with Me have been hailed as "the most influential publications on this subject" (Pat Triggs, Books for Keeps) .

4th edn 1991, 64 pages, 0 903355 37 X

 

 

Not a Perfect Offering:  A New School Year

 

LIZ WATERLAND

A teacher has to 'read' each child, each parent, with a skill made up of intuition and experience and an attitude of hope. Liz Waterland's fictionalized diary of what starting school feels like, to four-year-olds and their mothers and fathers and their teachers, is 'a beautiful book, suffused with humour and humanity' (School Librarian).

1994, 80 pages, 0 903355 43 4 (US edn. Stenhouse Press)

 

 

Classics for Children  & Young People

 

A Signal Bookguide by MARGERY FISHER

Here is a great reader (the editor/publisher for 30 years of the review journal Growing Point) reading and recommending "a library of stories I would not want children to miss". The exemplary annotations are essays in miniature: together they serve as a historical introduction to the subject of children's literature. 

1986, 72 pages, 0 903355 20 54

 

 

Poetry Books for Children

Poetry Books ...

A Signal Bookguide by BRIAN MORSE

Brian Morse, for several years one of the selectors of the Signal Poetry Award, brings every aspect of his experience – of reading and writing and teaching poetry – to recommending more than 200 titles for preschool ages up to the mid teens. His commentary includes practical advice on ways to approach poetry in the classroom. 

1992, 64 pages, 0 903355 38 8

 

 

Picture Books 9–13

Picture Books

A Signal Bookguide by ELAINE MOSS

The idea of offering picture books of high quality and challenging content to readers beyond the infant level first occurred to Elaine Moss during her time as librarian in a London primary school. To the experience of sharing books with children she brought the specialist knowledge of an established critic and reviewer, a combination that generated fresh thinking about the potentialities of picture books for older readers. 100+ main entries. 

3rd edn 1992, 64 pages, 0 903355 39 6

 

 

Traditional Tales

 

A Signal Bookguide by MARY STEELE

Sharing the stories that people have told and heard over generations gives children today direct and intimate links with them and with each other. A children's and youth librarian recommends 150+ titles, filling in some of the background of the stories. 

1989, 72 pages, 0 903355 29 9

 

 

Children's Books Research: A Practical Guide to Techniques & Sources

Children's Book Research

TESSA ROSE CHESTER

The author's experience in several aspects of the study of children's books – as curator of a major resource for research (Library, the V&A Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood), as a writer (co-author, The History of Children's Book Illustration, John Murray), and as a student once herself – ensures that Children's Books Research is both a valuable guide for the beginner and a helpful tool for the specialist. 

1989, 80 pages, 0 903355 32 9

 

 

Magical Thought in Creative Writing: The Distinctive Roles of Fantasy & Imagination in Fiction

 

ANNE WILSON

"A genuinely new and challenging way of thinking about literature ... This book applies to individually created literature the intriguing critical insights developed in the author's previous work Traditional Romance & Tale [Brewer, 1976] ... the idea that traditional stories should be seen as the creation of their heroes, like dreams. Such stories have no interest in the objective, rational world, but instead employ an intuitive logic in which thought is action... 'In a fantasy, we are concerned with the hero's mood, while, in imaginative art, we are concerned with the author's tone.' This is a stimulating line of thought ... the essential element of her theory, the idea of the hero or heroine of magical fiction as the author of the story, exploring conflicts of emotion in the psyche, is original and exciting." (Neil Philip, Times Educational Supplement

1983, 56 pages, 0 903355 09 4

 

 

Boundaries & Thresholds: Papers from a Colloquium of the Katharine Briggs Club

 

HILDA ELLIS DAVIDSON, Editor

The Katharine Briggs Club is a group of scholars from different disciplines who meet to discuss the many subjects which interested Katharine Briggs, the distinguished folklorist and writer. 

1993, 104 pages, 0 903355 41 8

 

Further Titles:

The Signal Approach to Children's Books,

The Signal Approach ...

Kestrel 1980, US.: Scarecrow Press (few copies left) – a collection of articles from the first ten years of Signal plus three major new pieces. 352 pages.

 

 

 

 

 

The Signal Review of Children's Books #1 & #2,

1982 and 1983,

 

The Signal Selection of Children's Books,

issues 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989 – both the above titles feature large numbers of collaborative reviews on respective new publications

 

Back Issues of Signal

 

 

Publications by the Thimble Press:

Cover Signal 100

Cover Reading Otherways

Cover Childness

Cover Information and Book Learning

Cover Signal Companion

Cover Reading Environment

Cover Reading Talk

Cover Tell Me

Cover Looking at Pictures...

Cover Childrens Book Research

Cover How Texts Teach...

Cover Poetry Books for Children

Cover Read with me

Cover Signal Collection