Module QXE-1016:
Children's Fiction

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics.

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Raluca Radulescu

Overall aims and purpose

One in three books sold is a work of Children's literature. So what of its histories, its theories, its transition and fragmentations into the most popular genre of all time? This module engages with a variety of classic, popular and current children's literature from a range of perspectives, exploring how they represent childhood as formative whilst considering the ways in which children read and receive literature from infancy. Thus this module aims to take stock of both what has traditionally been considered 'children's literature' and of texts tailored (through excerpting, adaptation and cultural adaptation) to suit a young audience. Students are encouraged to examine texts in relation to cultural contexts and social change and the changing politics of childhood as an identity category. There will be opportunities to explore the polysemic ways text and illustration interact; the relationship between the uncanny and the creation of 'other worlds'; the critical space that exists between writing for and about children; the role of the child narrator as the primary storyteller: and the major themes children's literature represents, from domesticity and family life, to innocence and 'knowing', to threat, violence and unknown worlds. Combining theory with creative practice, students will also be encouraged to submit their own works of children's literature, coming to understand the relationship between reader and text.

Course content

This module proposes to bring students closer to the debates surrounding, on the one hand, childhood as a category, and the historical context in which 'Children's Fiction' has emerged from and developed, and, on the other, the practice of writing Children's Literature. Thus we include analyses of a range of perspectives and representations of childhood and how they have altered over time, reflecting cultural contexts, societal categories, gender differences. From the point of view of the creative writer, this exploration will be particularly mindful of children's ever-changing reading habits. We will also explore the narrative distinctions between writing for and about children, including, but not limited to, how the novel places children in positions of power and responsibility and what effect this may have on the reader: the primary themes and subjects that continue to contextualise children's literature. We will examine the importance of identity (also a child's understanding of their own identity) and how this is formed and shaped through experience: the exploration of fantasy worlds and imagination and the ways in which they can be representative of larger, allegorical themes. For the creative writing students there will be written practice sessions, designed to enable them to apply the literary devices and narrative techniques used, including exploring the experience of childhood, whilst focusing upon language use and its educational properties to enhance learning.

Assessment Criteria


A 3rd class candidate’s work will show many of the following features:

Limited engagement with ideas and understanding of the texts.

Link between themes and form not always clear.

Limited sense of formal conventions. Inconsistent with regard to linguistic technicalities

Limited awareness of redrafting and editing process.

C- to C+

A 2(ii) candidate’s work will show many of the following qualities:

Some attempt at serious exploration of ideas.

Some link between themes and form. Good attempt to engage with form, but this may not be entirely sustained.

Use of language technically proficient, but not always focused.

Some awareness of the creative process and of decisions made in writing.

Good work, but its strengths need to be more fully sustained to reach publishable standard.


A 2(i) candidate’s work will show many of the following qualities:

Demonstration of a degree of vitality and originality.

Very good understanding of generic conventions; sound use of structures and forms.

Resourceful use of language

Sound understanding of the creative process and thoughtful control of decisions made in writing.

Very good work, which at times comes close to publishable standard


Typically, the work of a first class candidate will show many of the following qualities:

Excellent levels of originality, vision and depth; striking and thorough engagement with ideas.

Excellent understanding and control of form.

Impressive linguistic control and/or innovation.

Sophisticated understanding of the creative process and assured control of decisions made in writing.

Dynamic work approaching publishable standard.

Learning outcomes

    1. Demonstrate high level writing skills through creative practice.
    1. Demonstrate independence in planning, carrying out and reviewing a sustained writing project in response to writing for children.
    1. Demonstrate an awareness of research and writing techniques employed by writers to reach the younger audience.
    1. Show critical understanding of the representation of childhood through children's literature: its landscapes, contexts and historical development.
    1. Demonstrate high level of understanding of the range of children's literature and the readers it is written for.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
EXAM Examination OR Creative Portfolio

English literature students will take a 2-hour final exam at the end of the module focused on the texts studied in weeks 8-12.

OR For creative writing students:

1,500 word review of 2 or more of the module texts and how they have influenced your creative approach.

ESSAY First essay OR creative portfolio

English Literature students will write a 1,500 word critical essay on one of the texts studied in the first 6 weeks of the module.


For creative writing:

1 creative portfolio (1500 words) consisting of creative work for children (up to 1,000 words) - either a short story, series of verse or the opening chapters to a longer work of prose. Illustrations may be included but narrative must be the primary content + 500 word critical commentary explaining narrative choices as influenced by existing works of children's fiction and practitioner techniques that you have emulated.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


1 one hour seminar weekly for literature students; for creative writing students this will be a 1 one hour workshop weekly

Private study 145
Study group

1 one-hour study group weekly


2 one hour lectures weekly


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Awareness of how different social and cultural contexts affect the nature of language and meaning (English Benchmark Statement 2.1; 2.2; 3.1.3; 3.1.7; 3.1.11; 3.2.8).
  • Critical Skills in the close reading, description, reasoning and analysis and the ability to acquire substantial quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of the distinctive interpretative skills of the subject (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.2; 1.3.6; 1.3.9; 2.1; 2.3; 3.2.1; 3.3.1; 3.3.3; 3.3.5; 3.3.8; 3.3.12; 3.3.13).
  • Rhetorical skills of effective communication and argument, both oral and written (English Benchmark Statement 2.3; 3.1.10; 3.2.5; 3.3.1; 3.3.6).
  • Sensitivity to generic conventions and to the shaping effects upon communication of circumstances, authorship, textual production and intended audience (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.8; 2.3.; 3.1.2; 3.2.3).
  • The capacity for independent thought and judgement; the ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of texts, concepts and theories and to interrogate and apply a variety of theoretical positions and weigh the importance of alternative perspectives (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.9; 2.1; 2.3; 3.1.10; 3.2.2; 3.3.1; 3.3.7; 3.3.11).
  • The ability to comprehend and develop intricate concepts in an open-ended way which involves an understanding of purpose and consequences (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.6; 3.3.9).
  • Recognition of the multi-faceted nature of literature, and of its complex relationship to other media or disciplines and forms of knowledge (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.7; 2.1; 2.2; 2.4; 2.5; 3.1.8; 3.1.12).
  • Critical Skills in the close reading, description, reasoning and analysis of texts (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.6; 1.3.9; 2.1; 2.3; 3.2.1; 3.3.1; 3.2.1; 3.3.8; 3.3.12).
  • Competence in the planning and execution of essays, presentations and other writing and project work (English Benchmark Statement 3.3.6).
  • Conceptual skills developed by demonstration and discussion. (English Benchmark Statement 3.2.2; 3.3.14; 3.3.17; 3.3.18; 3.3.19).
  • Study skills in researching concepts and contexts by directed reading. (English Benchmark Statement 3.3.22; 3.3.23).
  • The ability to express ideas clearly in discussion and in organised written form. (English Benchmark Statement 3.2.5; 3.2.7; 3.3.11; 3.3.15; 3.3.16; 3.3.21; 3.3.24).
  • The ability to analyse texts, using appropriate critical terminology. ( English Benchmark Statement 3.1.8; 3.2.1; 3.2.6; 3.3.12).
  • The ability to situate texts in intertextual debate and as responses to and interventions in contemporary culture. (English Benchmark Statement 3.1.7; 3.1.10; 3.1.11; 3.2.3; 3.2.8).
  • An understanding of creative and critical processes, and of the wide range of skills inherent in creative writing. (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.1).
  • An awareness of writing and publishing contexts, opportunities and audiences in the wider world (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.1).
  • Artistic engagement and ability to articulate complex ideas in oral and written forms. (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2).
  • Ability to connect creative and critical ideas between and among forms, techniques and types of creative and critical praxis. (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2; English Benchmark Statement 3.2).
  • Reflective practitioner skills, including awareness of the practice of others in collaborative learning (NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2; English Benchmark Statement 3.2).
  • Ability to engage in processes of drafting and redrafting texts to achieve clarity of expression and an appropriate style. (English Benchmark Statement 3.3; NAWE Creative Writing Benchmark Statement 3.2).


Resource implications for students

see above - purchase of some inexpensive primary texts will be necessary, though they exist in free kindle editions as well in most cases

Reading list

The Cambridge Companion to Children's Literature, ed. by Immel and Grenby (2009) - free e-book through BU Library The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature, ed. by Carpenter and Prichard (1984), multiple copies in BUL International companion encyclopaedia of children's literature, ed. by Hunt and Bannister-Ray (Routledge, 1996)

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: