March 14, 2016
Since its inception, USF’s Textbook Affordability Project has worked to help save students money on course materials. In 2015, the TAP Project undertook an innovative approach to textbook affordability by collaborating with USF Innovative Education and academic faculty to create its first open-access digital textbook. The textbook, titled “The Inside, Outside, and Upside Downs of Children’s Literature: From Poets and Pop-ups to Princesses and Porridge” was written by Dr. Jenifer Schneider, an associate professor in Literacy Studies at the University of South Florida. Dr. Schneider teaches Literature in Childhood Education, a large, writing intensive exit requirement course for non-education majors. When she received an email soliciting proposals for the creation of an open access textbook, she saw it as an opportunity to create a resource that met the specific needs of her students.
Dr. Schneider feels that most of the books available in children’s literature don’t fit the specific needs of her course; her students come from a wide variety of majors, but most children’s literature textbooks are written for education majors and librarians. Writing an open access textbook gave her the ability to create cross-curricular content that would be relevant to students from multiple majors. Whether their interest is linguistics, marketing, or history, each student can find a relatable topic within Schneider’s textbook.
Traditionally, children’s literature textbooks assess the elements and literary qualities of children’s books. Dr. Schneider’s book, however, takes a different approach. It helps students identify and evaluate examples of good children’s books from a practical perspective. “The Inside, Outside and Upside Downs of Children’s Literature” also addresses topical subjects, such as how to write children’s books, ghost writing, and important figures in children’s literature.
The open access textbook will be available as an ebook through the University of South Florida’s Scholar Commons. The digital format allows Dr. Schneider to present content in a more dynamic manner than using a traditional book would allow. Hyperlinks in particular are used for the purpose of making additional learning material easily accessible. For example, when discussing the issue of censorship and the American Library Association (ALA), Dr. Schneider states, “when I discuss ALA, in a flat book, you can’t hyperlink to the ALA website and see all the resources available there…but I can put in where I want you to look.” In additional to hyperlinks, the book also includes graphics and embedded multimedia videos.
“The Inside, Outside, and Upside Downs of Children’s Literature: From Poets and Pop-ups to Princesses and Porridge” by Dr. Jenifer Schneider will be completed mid-2016. The finished ebook will be housed on USF Scholar Commons, providing free and open access to anybody in the world. Available as a PDF document or an Apple iBook, readers will be able to read the book on a variety of devices. Additionally, all of the videos included in the text of the book will be available for off-line downloading and viewing.