Authentic Literature

Authentic literature represents the gamut of writing, from telling stories to presenting technical information. Whatever form it takes, in the words of literacy educator Donna E. Norton, "Literature entices, motivates, and instructs. It opens doors of discovery and provides endless hours of adventure and enjoyment."

What is Authentic Literature and Why is it Important?

Authentic literature is writing (fiction or nonfiction, narrative or expository) in the original, natural language of the authors—trade books or "real books," as writer Marsha K. Rudman calls them. As educator Regie Routman notes, these texts are not written with a controlled vocabulary, or rewritten to conform to a particular readability formula. Rather, they are truly diverse and multicultural; as multicultural literacy authority Violet Harris notes, they authentically represent the cultures and perspectives of a wide range of authors.

Teaching authentic literature benefits students in many ways: it serves as a model for expanding their language base, helps to increase their vocabularies, excites and captivates their imaginations, and motivates them to learn. Regardless of grade- or skill-level, reading programs centered on authentic literature produce students who exhibit higher achievement and more positive attitudes toward reading and writing, as shown by researchers and educators such as S. Alan Cohen, Lesley Mandel Morrow, Michael O. Tunnell, and James S. Jacobs.

As children's literature expert Charlotte Huck has said, "We don't achieve literacy and then give children literature; we achieve literacy through literature."

Examples of Authentic Literature

Grade Levels P-3

Brother Eagle, Sister Sky Chief Seattle
Carolinda Clatter! Mordicai Gerstein
Chicken Sunday Patricia Polacco
Do Like Kyla Angela Johnson
Flossie And The Fox Patricia McKissack
Gator Gumbo Candace Fleming
Goin' Someplace Special Patricia McKissack
Grandfather's Journey Allen Say
I Love My Hair Natasha A Tarpley
Little Pierre: A Cajun Story From Louisiana Robert D. San Souci
Mighty Jackie: The Strike Out Queen Marissa Moss
Mirandy and Brother Wind Patricia McKissack
My Name is Yoon Helen Recorvits
Rachel: The Story Of Rachel Carson Amy Ehrlich
Rag Coat Lauren Mills
Smoky Night Eve Bunting
Snowflake Bentley Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Sootface: An Ojibwa Cinderella Story Robert D. San Souci
Sukey and the Mermaid Robert D. San Souci
Talking Eggs: A Folktale from the American South Robert D. San Souci
Thunder Cake Patricia Polacco
When I Was Young in the Mountains Cynthia Rylant
Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree Gloria Houston

Grade Levels 2-5

Adventures Of Mark Twain by Huckleberry Finn Robert Burleigh
Crazy Horse's Vision Joseph Bruchac
Golem David Wisniewski
January's Sparrow Patricia Polacco
Mimi John Newman
Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile Gloria Houston
My Great Aunt Arizona Gloria Houston
So You Want to be President Judith St. George
Young Fredle Cynthia Voigt

Grade Levels 5-9

Across Five Aprils Irene Hunt
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain & Bruce Brooks
Albert Einstein Kathleen Krull
Away West Patricia McKissack
Bud, Not Buddy Christopher Paul Curtis
Cay Theodore Taylor
Cruisers Walter Dean Myers
Escape: Children of the Holocaust Allan Zullo
Jack Tales Richard Chase, ed.
Long Way From Chicago Richard Peck
Lottery Rose Irene Hunt
On The Wings Of Heroes Richard Peck
Out of the Dust Karen Hesse
River Between Us Richard Peck
Season Of Gifts Richard Peck
Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio Peg Kehret
Strawberry Girl Lois Lenski
Strays Like Us Richard Peck
Tales of Uncle Remus Julius Lester
Teacher's Funeral: A Comedy In Three Parts Richard Peck
Turtle in Paradise Jennifer Holm
Year Down Yonder Richard Peck

Grade Levels 7-12

A Step from Heaven An Na
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
Adventures of Tom Sawyer Mark Twain
After Ever After Jordan Sonnenblick
Bad Boy: A Memoir Walter Dean Myers
Cannery Row John Steinbeck
Chinese Cinderella: The True Story Of An Unwanted Daughter Adeline Yen Mah
Cider House Rules John Irving
Common Sense Thomas Paine
Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain Mark Twain
Darlings are Forever Melissa Kantor
David Copperfield Charles Dickens
First Part Last Angela Johnson
Foreign Exchange Sophia Lowell
Four Classic American Novels Nathaniel Hawthorne
Freedom Writers Diary Erin Gruwell
Game Walter Dean Myers
Grapes Of Wrath John Steinbeck
Great Expectations Charles Dickens
Hard Times Charles Dickens
Heart Transplant Andrew Vachss
House Of The Seven Gables Nathaniel Hawthorne
Illegal Bettina Restrepo
In Dubious Battle John Steinbeck
Kick Walter Dean Myers
Life on the Mississippi Mark Twain
Lockdown Walter Dean Myers
Lorna Doone R. D. Blackmore
Martin Chuzzlewit Charles Dickens
Nicholas Nickleby Charles Dickens & Mark Ford, ed
Night Elie Wiesel
NorthWest Passage Scott Chantler
Oliver Twist Charles Dickens
Pact: Three Young Men Make A Promise And Fulfill A Dream Sampson Davis, George Jenkins & Rameck Hunt
Prince and the Pauper Mark Twain
Red Pony John Steinbeck
Roughing It Mark Twain
Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
Something Like Hope Shawn Goodman
Spotting for Nellie Pamela Lowell
Storm Thief Chris Wooding
Strings Attached Judy Blundell
Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson Mark Twain
Trapped Michael Northrop
Uncle Tom's Cabin, Or, Life Among The Lowly Harriet Beecher Stowe
Uncle Tom's Children Richard Wright

Help in Selecting Authentic Literature

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