P.C.Pop with Pablo

Story Book Leadership – Teaching College Students Using Kiddie Lit

In Big Bird, Books, Cat in Hat, Children's Literature, College Students, creativity, Dr. Seuss, Group Dynamics, Harold & the Purple Crayon, Leader, Leadership, Literacy Month, Lorax, Malavenda, Margaret Hamilton, Maurice Sendak, Pablo Malavenda, Pop Culture, Story Book Leadership, Susan Baum, Theodor Geisel, UConn, Wicked Witch of the West, Willimantic Public Library, Yertle the Turtle on March 4, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Cat in the Hat's Hat

On March 2, the world once again celebrated the brilliance of Dr. Seuss on the day of his birthday.  Dr. Seuss’ birthday is used to launch Dr. Seuss self portraitReading Month and Reading programs and special events in elementary schools around the country. This year Dr. Seuss’ birthday sparked me to share my passion — teaching LEADERSHIP to college students using children’s leadership. This is the first in a series of PCPop blog posts focusing on Story Book Leadership.  Stay tuned for my first book review in honor of Dr. Seuss — Yertle the Turtle. But first here is the story of how I became so passionate about the power and potential of stories originally written and published for pre-school children.

In the summer of 1997, I stumbled on a class that changed my life – the way I think, the way I teach, the way I approach my life.  The class wasthe University of Connecticut EPSY 5750 – Creativity.  It is a part of the curriculum for the Three Summers Sixth Year Program in the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut. The Three Summer program was developed by the gifted education guru, Professor Joseph S. Renzulli, to give teachers from all over the world an opportunity to join a community of colleagues committed to being the best in developing the talent in each child, take classes and participate in a “confratute.” After three consecutive summers, these professionals earn a graduate level degree – a 6th year certificate.

Dr. Susan Baum, who is a member of the program’s summer faculty, was the professor for this particular class. I wasn’t matriculating as a part of the formal program but somehow I was able to enroll in this class as I was still working on the coursework for a PhD in Higher Education Administration at UConn. In the true spirit of creativity, Professor Baum gave us our project and instructed us to pick a topic that would truly excite us – that we were passionate about – something we always wanted to study in the past but needed permission to pursue.  She was giving us permission and inspired us. After weeks of reflection — my topic and my project was decided — using Children’s Literature to teach college students about LEADERSHIP.

Children’s books have always intrigued me. One of the most popular classes at UConn for many, many years was an English class known by all as “Kiddie Lit.” Francelia Butler was an inspiration. Professor Butler also knew a few famous people who visited our class.  I remember Big Bird, the guy who invented Silly Putty, Maurice Sendak, and the Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton, coming to visit our little lecture hall in Storrs, Connecticut. At some point in my life I fell in love with and began to collect children’s literature.  The lessons found in these seemingly simple publications are powerful  — lessons about values, respect, courage, honesty, loyality, family, hope, persistence, love, service, humility, and yes, LEADERSHIP.  It wasn’t until I embarked on this journey – this class project – that I saw the true power of the word, the written word of Kiddie Lit.

I spent the entire summer of 1997 sitting on the floor of the Willimantic Public Library, in the Story Book Leadership -- Harold & the Purple Crayonchildren’s section, reading and reading and reading story books, children’s books, and picture books. I soon knew that I was on to something.  I found LEADERSHIP in so many stories that I decided to create a booklet which would serve as a directory for me and perhaps other higher education professionals.  My professional goals include teaching leadership by giving students opportunities to develop their own philosophy and skills — and to use any means to reach them and to teach them — including Children’s Literature.

The Children’s Literature Leadership Booklet that I created in this class during the summer of 1997 has become a valuable part of my professional library.  I refer to it often, and it hasn’t failed me yet. The list of my favorite Children’s books – those that have a profound impact on my teaching – have been compiled in a separate blog post.

Rediscovering the power and potential of using Children’s literature to teach leadership is merely one Story Book Leadership -- Yertle the Turtleexample of how this Creativity course has guided me these past 15 years. By the way, I got an A on the project and an A+ in the class but more importantly — that class, that summer, changed my life.

If you too want to use Story Book Leadership techniques with your students, find out how to get started by reading the PCPop blog post: Story Book Leadership – Getting Started. To see some of the best Children’s books focusing on various aspects of leadership, read the PCPop blog post: Story Book Leadership – Book List.


For more information on Story Book Leadership, read the PC Pop posts as follows:


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  1. Great and informative article. Thank you!

  2. […] Story Book Leadership — Teaching College Students Using Kiddie Lit […]

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