About witches, woods and writing

Some might be puzzled when they pass Room 117 on a Thursday afternoon and get a glimpse of the group of 11th graders in there: Little Red Riding Hood, Disney melodies with Mickey and Minnie Mouse and nursery rhymes like the one of the Itsy-bitsy-spider have been on the agenda lately. Don’t be mistaken – we aren’t preparing for an internship in kindergarten. On the contrary, our intention is entirely scientific: This year’s English W-Seminar is about Children’s Literature.

Illustration: Malin Förstemann, Q11

In a W-Seminar, students are supposed to learn how to analyse scientific sources, structure their ideas and, finally, to write a paper about the topic which they have chosen. The broad variety of seminars offered at our school allows students to find a subject of personal interest. This is the ideal precondition as writing the paper at the end of the W-Seminar requires perseverance, creativity and meticulous work. The participants of the W-Seminar Children’s Literature all seem to be motivated:  Week by week, they are taken back to a moment of their childhood. They remember their grandmothers reading their favourite fairytales to them, reflect upon the effects which the evil wolf or the nasty witch used to have on them and think about their childhood hero.

The fascination for children’s literature is what everyone in the course has in common and what leads us to more profound (adults‘) questions: What is the value of children’s literature and should kids actually be told cruel stories too? Why are children’s books still appealing to adults and is there a difference in the way we perceive them once we have grown up? How can parents, nurseries and schools make sure that children develop a love for reading at an early age? These are questions which we have already discussed and will certainly discuss even more in the following weeks by means of scientific input.

One thing is for sure: We live in a complex, accelerating world full of wonderful but also worrying events. Children’s books introduce us to a world of magic, adventure, bravery and victories of good over evil. Perhaps we should sometimes simply forget the worries of everyday life and look at the world through the eyes of a child. If we try to bear this in mind whilst learning how to research, cite and write a paper, this seminar has the chance to be not just a lesson, but a lesson for life.  

Lisa Schano