Assistant Professor Jane Fleming is studying the impact of urban children’s literature on the reading development of children in city schools. Research shows that beginning readers use their background knowledge and familiar experiences to relate to texts, recognize words, and understand stories. Seeing oneself represented in the characters, authors, and illustrators may be a key to engaging students in learning and experiencing school success.

But getting access to high-quality children’s books that reflect urban public school students’ experiences can be difficult. While much has been published in the way of multicultural children’s literature, finding picture books and other texts for beginning readers that reflect city living, language and dialect variation, multicultural communities, and even urban ecology or architecture can be a challenge.

Fleming, along with colleagues at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, has developed a rating scale for helping teachers select high-quality children’s literature with city settings and urban themes. Professional development strengthens teacher’s knowledge of culturally relevant children’s literature and methods for using familiar texts and stories to engage young readers. Plans are underway to examine the impact of urban children’s literature on students’ motivation for and persistence in reading and their developing reading skill.