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
Grade Levels 2-5
Grade Levels 5-9
Grade Levels 7-12
Help in Selecting Authentic Literature
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