Literature for Literacy: The National Curriculum

‘The Shape of the Australian Curriculum: English paper’ (National Curriculum Board 2009) defines literacy as the ability to use and produce a wide variety of multi- modal texts to meet the contextual demands in varying situations. Put simply, there is a lot more to literacy than just learning to read and write.

As teachers, we need to be aware of the foundational knowledge students have when they first step into our classroom. Students, from a wide range of home and community backgrounds, will come together in our classroom and bring with them a vast range of experiences with language (National Curriculum Board 2009). The Australian National Curriculum is being developed in such a way that out of school experiences with text and language will become valid ways of communicating and will be the basis for further learning about language, literacy and literature.

According to Professor Peter Freebody (as cited in ACARA), there will be a more intense focus on literature in the Australian National Curriculum. This focus will encourage teachers to examine texts more closely and discuss with each other which texts are best to use in their classroom.

The identification of literature as one of the key elements to the National English Curriculum highlights the importance literature has to play in the development of language. With a shift to a more focused approach to literature in the primary setting emphasises its role in the development of students’ ability to think, reason and grow in logical and ethical understandings and applications (Fellowes and Oakley).

Hancock (as cited in Fellowes and Oakley p. 472) defines children’s literature as
“...literature that appeals to the interests, needs and reading preferences of children and captivates children as its major audience. Children’s literature may be fictional, poetic or factual, or a combination of all of these.”

Education should provide students with the knowledge and skills to become valuable individuals within society (Drucker 2010). Children’s literature draws the reader into a world created by the author and is free to respond in their own way (Fellowes and Oakley 2010). By doing so good literature can teach students about the world we, human beings, create and the morality by which we live (Pullman as cited in Nicholson 2008). When children read, as adults do, they can find reflections of their own lives and also come to better understand the lives of others (Nicholson). Through literature children are not only developing literacy skills such as vocabulary and text composition and purpose they are also learning about themselves as individuals and the world in which they live i.e. Values, morals etc. To further extend this idea through literature children are learning how to use their knowledge of language to communicate their own thoughts and feelings about life.


Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. English. Retrieved from

Drucker, H. (2010). The importance of teaching literature. Retrieved from

Fellowes, J. & Oakley, G. (2010). Language, literacy and early childhood education. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

The National Curriculum Board. (2009). The shape of the Australian curriculum: English. ACT: Commonwealth Copyright Administration.

Nicholson, C. (2008). Fiction for children and young people: The state of the art. In Goodwin, P. (Ed.), Understanding children’s books: A guide for education professionals (55-64). London: SAGE Publications.

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