All faculty members pursue literature that is reflective of the children’s social and emotional needs at their respective grade level. Children’s developing perspectives on issues of race, ethnicity, gender, family structure, sexual orientation, and socioeconomics are also addressed in the literature in all three divisions as appropriate for each age group.
Early Childhood students are lead through daily teacher-led read alouds and are encouraged to independently explore literature including poetry and picture books. Each teacher strives to create a print-rich environment in which to immerse the students. Children are also encouraged to verbalize their reflections with adults and children of all ages including buddy or mentor programs where older children visit in the Early Childhood division to engage in reading and writing activities.
The developmental needs of Lower School students dictate the literature that is introduced at each grade level. The youngest students read literature that relates to a class theme or an author study. This is done in the first grade, for example, with the Rosemary Wells author study. Third and fourth graders read chapter books and picture books that are linked to a theme of study as well as literature that addresses topics introduced through the social curriculum, Open Circle.
In the Middle School as well there is an attempt to connect literature to major curricular themes in the humanities while addressing the specific developmental needs of adolescents. Teachers select literature from a wide variety of genres like biographies, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.
While the subject matter varies depending on the curriculum goals of each grade, similar themes are prevalent that appeal particularly to the Middle School student like issues of social justice, friendship, moral dilemmas and questions, the individual and community, and “coming of age” issues.
One such theme that is prevalent in many Middle School classrooms is that of examining multiple perspectives. For example, a fifth grade unit on the novel Walking to the Bus-Rider Blues consists of many different classroom activities from journaling to teacher- facilitated discussion which give students the opportunity to think about questions like, “Who is telling the story?” and “Whose voice is not heard?”. Students are asked to think about why an author would choose to tell the story from a specific perspective as well as thinking about the role of historical fiction in moving students beyond their own experiences. Similar questions and themes are explored when students read To Kill a Mocking Bird in the seventh grade. All the while teachers are guiding students to be more sophisticated readers. As students move through the Middle School, reading instruction increasingly focuses on the more abstract elements of literature like figurative language, symbolism, and tone.