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Campus Blog

From Shakespeare to Seuss: Why I love the course I “had to take”

October 2nd, 2014 | Ian Richardson


As I walked into Trask Hall 309 on the first day of class, I wondered if I was in the wrong room. I claimed an empty seat and scanned my surroundings, noting that I was one of the only English majors present—and one of the only guys.

I hadn’t exactly chosen to be in ENGL 330: Children’s Literature this semester. In fact, it had chosen me. I needed three English elective credits to graduate, and this was the only three-credit English elective that would fit into my schedule. But little did I know when I had signed up for the course that it would soon turn into one of my favorite classes.

Children’s Literature is an elective class for both English majors and Education majors, taught by LaDonna Friesen, one of the wonderful faculty members in the Humanities Department. The class surveys the history and the literary value of a variety of kids’ books, dating from the dawn of the printing press to this year’s Caldecott Award winners.

Now, if you would have told me a year ago that I’d be spending my final semester studying books like Green Eggs and Ham and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, I would have thought you were crazy. For the past three years, I’ve been dissecting works by Shakespeare, Faulkner and Joyce—how could reading books with pictures possibly be a scholarly activity worth my time?

But that first day of class quickly changed my perspective. Mrs. Friesen began by reading us a children’s book called Click! Clack! Moo! The story follows a group of cows that write messages to their farmer in order to negotiate better living conditions. After reading the story, she began discussing the themes and motifs inside it, and as we dug deeper into not only the text but also the illustrations, Mrs. Friesen helped us unearth several rich meanings that I would have missed by writing the book off as a simple children’s story.

At that moment, I realized this class had the potential to be one of the most engaging courses I’ve taken in my college career.

In the past few weeks, that has continued to be true. The class has introduced me to entirely new genres of literature, such as wordless books, which tell some of the most imaginative tales I have ever read while using only pictures. I have also developed a new appreciation for how much care and thought goes into the production of a quality kids’ book.

Children’s Literature is only one of many engaging courses offered at Evangel, some of which may seem off the beaten path at first but then turn out to be the hidden pearls of your semester. So, when you begin your college adventure, take advantage of these courses that you find yourself “stuck in,” even if they may not necessarily be your thing. Who knows? They might be the doors to wonderful new worlds that you never knew existed.

And, if you’re ever in need of a good bedtime story, I’d be happy to send you some recommendations.

Ian Richardson

English Major | Class of 2015

Ian is a senior English major from Afton, Iowa. He lives in Scott Hall and writes for the Evangel University website and the Lance. Ian says the thing he loves most about Evangel is the sense of community.

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