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ENGL 277 A: Introduction to Children's and Young Adult Literature

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:30pm - 3:20pm
OUG 141
Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges
Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges

Syllabus Description:


Children’s and young adult literature serves multiple educational, social, and cultural purposes: teaching children to read alphanumeric and visual texts; demonstrating how narrative, genre, and literary devices work; showing how one might navigate personal and social issues; offering windows into experiences that differ from one’s own; and conveying ideologies either invisibly or critically. In English 277, students explore these purposes by reading children’s and young adult texts produced in various genres, including picturebooks, illustrated novels, print fiction, and comics. We will also examine how such literature engages and challenges cultural understandings of “child” and “teen” or “young adult,” particularly in light of increased book bans and challenges in K-12 schools. Doing so requires us to look closely at the relationship between course texts and the contexts in which they were produced.

English 277 fulfills VLPA and W general education credits as well as counting toward the English major or minor.

Goals and Methodology

Students in the course work toward several goals:

  1. Analyzing the characters, language, structure and themes of fictional texts,
  2. Explaining the relationship between selected children’s/young adult works and the historical, political, institutional, and cultural contexts of their production,
  3. Explicating how audiences process children’s/young adult literature,
  4. Defining (and recognizing the limits of defining) children’s/young adult literature, and
  5. Developing as critical thinkers who can formulate substantive arguments and explore those arguments with evidence.

Course activities promote active learning, with most class sessions incorporating a mix of mini-lectures, discussion, and group work. The course design—which includes frequent non-graded and graded writing—reflects the importance of writing as a means of learning. My role is to provide the tools and resources you will need to advance your own thinking. I will pose questions, design activities to help you think through these questions, and respond to your ideas. Your role is to do the hard work—the close reading, discussion, and writing. You will analyze texts, present your interpretations via class discussion and written assignments, and critically respond to others’ interpretations.


Class Participation

Class discussion constitutes one key method for developing your analytical skills. Thus, I expect prompt, regular attendance and active participation in discussions of texts. You should come prepared for each class session with required reading and short assignments completed. During class discussions, students should plan to ask questions, respond to poll questions, summarize their short assignments, interpret text, or contribute to small-group exchanges. Students should also expect me to call on them or ask them to facilitate group conversations, as I want everyone to earn full points for class participation. Like all skills, speaking in class becomes easier with practice. I do not expect fully polished analyses in class discussion; rather, your contributions represent ideas for further development.

There are several ways you can participate in the course:

  • Speaking to the whole class or small groups of peers during class sessions.
  • Taking and/or adding to group notes during group activities.
  • Responding to polls during mini-lectures.
  • Sharing out ideas from in-class writing.
  • Giving feedback on peers’ work-in-progress.
  • Discussing course texts, ideas-in-progress, or questions with Kimberlee during drop-in hours.
  • Answering peers’ questions on the Q&A forum.

Because students will have multiple, sometimes conflicting, interpretations of course texts, we will establish norms for maintaining a respectful learning climate early in the quarter.

Phone, laptops and wireless internet access can pull attention away from class conversations. Therefore, students must follow basic ground rules:

  • Students should switch off and stow their cell phones before class begins unless otherwise directed.
  • Students may use laptops to take notes, participate in polls, share content generated during small-group exercises, access course texts or short assignments, and research questions posed in class discussion
  • Students should not check email, electronically chat, update social media, or access the web during class unless asked to do so.

If you must miss class due to illness, I will provide alternative ways for you to contribute. I may ask you to keep a reading journal, comment on peers’ short assignments, engage in online discussion with others who are ill, or share textual annotations with peers. If I must miss class due to illness, I will email the class as soon as possible and move planned activities online.

I assess participation each class period on a credit/partial credit/no-credit basis; students who participate in good faith in the ways outlined above and whose contributions demonstrate careful preparation and active engagement with course texts will receive full points. Lack of engagement in class activities, inadequate preparation, and failure to adhere to classroom norms will substantially lower your participation grade for the course.

Short Assignments

Students will use the Canvas discussion area to respond to readings, workshop project ideas, or share interview and observation data. Each week, I will provide questions or guidelines to help you structure your remarks. Short assignment responses typically range from 250 to 300 words. Please note, though, that selected assignments may require longer responses. Short assignments allow us to extend class conversations, consider how audiences interact with children’s/young adult literature, and develop project ideas.

Short assignments receive points on a credit/partial credit/no-credit basis. Work that meets deadline and content requirements and demonstrates thoughtful engagement with the assignment prompt will receive full points. Note that, with the exception of project proposals, I will drop your lowest short assignment score in calculating your final grade.


Students will complete three projects: a picturebook analysis, a creative expansion of a course text, and a library exhibition. In class, we will complete activities to help you formulate project ideas, develop arguments or goals, select effective supporting evidence or story details, logically organize ideas, and revise draft materials. I encourage you to discuss your work with me in drop-in hours. You may seek feedback from consultants at the Odegaard Writing and Research Center in Odegaard Undergraduate Library and CLUE Writing Center in the Mary Gates Commons.

Connecting with Others

In addition to interacting with others during class, you have other opportunities to connect with peers and the instructor:

  • Q&A Forum: The Q&A Forum is an asynchronous space where you can ask general questions about the course, readings, or assignment prompts. Posting questions in the Q&A Forum helps others with the same question. It also allows students to share answers the instructor might not have.
  • Drop-in Hours: You need not have a specific question about the class, course texts, an assignment, or work-in-progress to attend drop-in hours. The instructor will be in Padelford A-305 and on Zoom every Monday and Wednesday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. to talk about your interests, experience in the major, future plans, or even the class.


Students may purchase the following texts new or used from any seller they wish. While I encourage you to purchase all picturebooks in print form, any format that is affordable and accessible is fine. You can also check your local library for copies to save expenses.


  • Love, Jessica. Julián Is a Mermaid. Candlewick Press, 2018. ISBN: 0763690457
  • Morales, Yuyi. Dreamers. Neal Porter Books, 2018. ISBN: 0823440559
  • Sendak, Maurice. Where the Wild Things Are. 1963. 50th Anniversary Edition. Harper Collins, 2012. ISBN: 0060254920
  • Woodson, Jacqueline and Hudson Talbott. Show Way. G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2005. ISBN: 0399237496


  • Acevedo, Elizabeth. Clap When You Land. Hot Key Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781471409127
  • Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963. Yearling, 1997. ISBN: 9780440414124
  • Dimaline, Cherie. The Marrow Thieves. DCB, 2017. ISBN: 1770864865
  • Gaiman, Neil and Dave McKean. Coraline. 2002. Reprint anniversary edition. HarperCollins, 2012. ISBN: 0380807343
  • Nguyen, Trung Le. The Magic Fish. Random House Graphic, 2021. ISBN: 1984851594



Assessment System

Grades in English 277 will be computed by points, with 400 points equaling a 4.0, 300 points a 3.0, and so on. If your total falls between grades, I will round up if you score one to five points below the higher grade and round down if you score one to four points above the lower grade. For example, 274 points equals a 2.7 and 275 points a 2.8. Students who score less than 65 points total will receive a 0 for the course, as the UW grading system does not scale grades lower than 0.7.

Short assignments receive credit for meeting due date and minimum length requirements and thoughtfully engaging with instructor prompts. Students who regularly participate as outlined in “Class Participation” will receive full participation points. All other assignments are evaluated based on quality of work submitted. Assessment comes in the form of grades and instructor feedback, either free-form or within a rubric. If you do not understand course readings, instructional materials, or assignment prompts, ask questions in the Q&A Forum, class sessions, or drop-in hours.

Total Points for the Course

Each component of the course is worth the following number of points. Please note that Canvas does not integrate well with my point schema. Canvas automatically converts points into percentages, a conversion that can make your grade seem lower than it actually is. For example, 10/20 points represents the C range under my system and the F range (50%) under a percentage system. For this reason, I include point range information on each assignment. In short, keep track of your total points and ignore Canvas's percentage conversion.


Points for Course

Grade Component

Possible Points

Class Participation

80 points

Short Assignments

100 points

Picturebook Analysis

60 points each

Creative Expansion

80 points

Library Exhibit

80 points


400 points



Lateness Policy

Since short assignments form the basis of in-class discussion, I will not accept these assignments late. Projects are due on the dates/times indicated on the course schedule. Late work will receive a 10-point deduction per day late, including weekends and holidays. Failure to submit required project proposals and participate in the class proposal workshops will result in a 10-point deduction from the final grade, as the ability to consider and revise from feedback is an essential component of the W credit. I will make exceptions to the lateness policy only in cases of illness or family emergency.

  • Technology glitches do not constitute valid excuses for lateness. To avoid problems, you should save frequently while working and you should back up work saved to a hard drive on a USB drive or an online file archive (Dropbox, iCloud, UW Google Drive, personal files space on Canvas). You are responsible for submitting the correct version of all digital assignments.

Academic Integrity

English 277 adheres adheres to the University of Washington’s Student Conduct Code, which prohibits academic misconduct like distributing instructional materials outside class without permission, cheating and plagiarism: the unacknowledged use of others' words or ideas. The course also prohibits using generative AI like ChatGPT to complete assignments.

When you draw upon or reproduce sources, make clear to your audience that you are incorporating others’ work by placing quotation marks around exact words; noting the creator’s name whenever you quote, describe, summarize or paraphrase; and captioning audio and visual content with creator and title information. For assignments produced in essay format, we will use MLA citation conventions, which require in-text parenthetical citations and a list of works cited. We will discuss citation conventions appropriate to other formats students choose for their projects.

Submitting work authored by another person or AI or failure to credit sources may result in a failing grade for the assignment, a failing grade for the course, or other disciplinary action. Disseminating course materials without permission may result in sanctions, including dismissal. If I see evidence of academic misconduct, I will make a report to the Community Standards & Student Conduct office.


Disability Accommodations

Disability accommodations grant students with ongoing or temporary disabilities access to educational opportunities. Disability Resource for Students (DRS) works to ensure access for students with disabilities by designing and implementing accommodations. If you experience educational barriers based on disability, please visit Disability Resources for Students online for more information about requesting accommodations. The DRS office in Mary Gates 011 is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Staff can work with you in person, by phone, TTY, video chat, or email (

If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

Your experience in this class is important to me, and you may have accessibility needs not covered under DRS’s umbrella—for example spotty internet access, an unreliable computer, etc. Please talk with me as soon as possible so we can brainstorm solutions.

Religious Accommodations

In accordance with state law, UW provides reasonable accommodations for student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (

Technology Requirements

The following technology is essential to accessing course materials and submitting assignments:

  • Reliable Internet access.
  • Web browser and computer specifications adequate for using the Canvas Learning Management system, Zoom, YouTube, and UW Google Docs.
  • Webcam and microphone or phone camera and microphone or computer/phone audio for participating in drop-in hours via Zoom. Note that the Student Technology Fee loan programhas laptops available for checkout if you need a computer.
  • Word processing software. Note that although you may use any software, you must submit essay assignments in PDF or Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx). If you use any other program, use the Help function for instructions on converting your files to PDF or Word format. Students may get Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus and a UW-licensed version of Google Apps for free.
  • Headphones or speakers (internal or external) to hear video content.
  • PDF viewer (Adobe PDF Reader or Apple Preview)
  • Basic image editing tool that allows image cropping (Paint, Preview,, Photoshop Express)
  • UW Net ID/Email with UW Google activated. The class email list uses your UW email. If you want UW email to go to another account, you must configure forwarding preferences with UW Net ID account management tools. Using the UW-licensed version of Google Apps allows us to share notes taken during class discussions without having to type multiple email addresses.


Catalog Description: 
Introduction to creative works written for children and young adults, with emphasis on historical, cultural, institutional, and industrial contexts of production and reception. Also examines changing assumptions about the social and educational function of children's and young adult literature.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
April 15, 2023 - 5:55am