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ELED 201 Introduction to Teaching: Children’s Literature


Children's Literature

“Children’s Literature is defined as material written and produced for the information or entertainment of children and young adults. This includes material in all non-fiction, literary and artistic genres in  physical and digital formats.” Children's Literature, Library of Congress

Children & Young Adult Literature

"A basic definition might state that it (children's literature) is books written for this particular audience; we might also add that it includes books that children and young adults enjoy and have made their own." Cullinan & Galda's Children's Literature and the Child

Children’s Literature Genres

This chart, adapted from Cullinan and Galda's Literature and the Child, provides brief descriptions of children and young adult literature genre's (Cullinan & Galda, 2002, p. 8). When searching for children's books in the library catalog, you may notice categories identified as subject genre/form.



Picture Books

Interdependence of art and text. Story of Concept presented through combination of text and illustration. Classification based on format, not genre. All genres appear in picture books.
Poetry & Verse Condensed language, imagery.  Distilled, rhythmic expression of imaginative thoughts and perceptions.
Folklore Literary heritage of humankind. Traditional stories, myths, legends, nursery rhymes, and songs from the past. Oral tradition; no known author.
Fantasy Imaginative worlds, make-believe. Stories set in places that do not exist, about people and creatures that could not exist, or events that could not happen.
Science Fiction Based on extending physical laws and scientific principles to their logical outcomes. Stories about what might occur in the future.
Realistic Fiction "What if" stories, illusion of reality. Events could happen in real world, characters seem real; contemporary setting.
Historical Fiction Set in the past, could have happened. Story reconstructs events of past age, things that could have or did occur.
Biography Plot and theme based on person's life. An account of a person's life, or part of a life history; letters, memoirs, diaries, journals, autobiographies.


Facts about the real world. Informational books that explain a subject or concept.



Cullinan, B.E. and Galda, L. (2002). Cullinan and Galda’s literature and the child (p. 8). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

Library of Congress. (2014, July 10). Frequently asked questions: Children's and young adults' cataloging program (CYAC). Retrieved from


Some characteristics often associated with children’s literature:

  • It is often less frank than adult literature, with a focus on action and fantasy
  • It is often contemporary, which means that it reflects issues of the era in which it was written
  • The content is usually simplistic and straightforward, with adult themes mostly excluded (except perhaps in young adult work)
  • It often reflects the emotions and experiences of children today, from a child’s point of view
  • It tends to be optimistic, in which hope is a vital element, and most often with a happy ending
  • It includes illustrations (in younger-level picture books and graphic novels) that augment the text
  • Certain elements, like repetition or rhyming can be included to aid retention 
  • Is often intended to instruct, so can be educational in nature