This week is part two of the blog post from our amazing interview with Linda Salem. If you didn’t get a chance to read it yet, Linda is SDSU’s very own Children’s Literature Library Specialist at the San Diego State University’s Love Library.
Storytelling is one of Linda’s key interests, and this lead to an interesting conversation regarding the history of children’s stories through oral tradition, into what they are becoming today: e-books. There is a curiosity to understand e-books and if they should be accepted into the education community. Will e-books for children have the same effect as their counterparts in print?
When asked about the motives of children selecting their own stories, Linda responded, "When they come to the library, children sometimes have a topic, a character, or just an idea in mind and they would like to see a book about it." There is a level of certainty that children project for a type of story they might be interested in reading.
Of course I had to ask Linda what her take was on modern day fairy tales that are consuming pop-culture. She suggested that these new fairy tales and the new methods that they are being told through are a continuum of the change that stories must go through. She explained how oral tales turned into printed books and those became fancier with color prints and popup art, then adapted into large motion pictures, and finally became stories that lay face-up on an LED screen device in brightly lit images and sounds captivating the child’s attention and perhaps even our own. Linda mentioned that the previous semester a composer had contacted her for a list of fairy tales that she thought would make good symphonic composition. There is really no end to where fairy tales and storytelling for children will go next.
So in the case of the e-books, Linda as the library specialist of Children’s Literature is faced with a tough question when it is time to select books for the collection. If the book is available in the e-reader format, does that overtake the need to purchase a physical copy? Linda says selecting the print or e-book format depends on many factors.
We spent some time looking through different and neat iPad apps of e-books that incorporated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with music, read-out-loud settings, or interactive animation (Atomic Antelope). "Ebooks editions are often media enhanced editions that may be seen as an expansion of the narrative form."
Ultimately, these examples for the evolution of storytelling perhaps make a statement about where children’s book culture is going. And really in a way, storytelling has come miles since its oral tradition. Now children are exposed to stories with graphics, activities, and music; consider not that this may be a distraction to the story itself, but that now stories incorporate so many other senses and create a new experience for the reader. The experience of the reader is changing in general with e-books, audiobooks, and movies, so why not allow children to adapt with this shift at the same time?
The final question I had for Linda was regarding the overall study of children’s literature as a newer form of scholarship and the significance it creates in the academic field. Perhaps this question served a need for reaffirming that children’s literature is not invaluable or easy to glance over because it is merely for children. Linda says that in her work with the Children's Literature Society affiliated with the American Literature Association she sees topics of scholarship growing. She and co-editor Dr. Dorothy Clark have an edited book of essays in press now entitled Frontiers in Children's Literature; this book explores this expansion of scholarship through contributions from exciting scholars working in the field today. Also, The Children's Literature Association or ChLA at http://www.childlitassn.org is a wonderful place to start to learn more about the direction of scholarship in this subject.
The importance of stories and books through any medium is the establishment of literacy, period. So while e-books do not have the comfort of musty pages that hold history with their own existence, they are part of our evolution. Current generations of children will grow into the adults that analyze these texts in ways we cannot comprehend yet. And sometimes it takes getting to know your local librarian to understand the bigger picture of what books of all kinds really mean.