UK university courses in Children’s Literature and Book Illustration

posted in: 2. Illustrators and Authors | 15

Seeing as you’re here reading my blog, you no doubt have an interest in children’s literature, and the art to be found in books for children but have you ever thought about taking that interest further, and studying at university, as an evening course, or at a summer school?

Thanks to a query from Catherine Butler, originally posted on the JISCMail’s Children’s Literature UK list, I’ve gathered together the UK university courses which include at least a module on children’s literature, or illustrating books for children and young people.

Even if you don’t want to take an academic course (though do read this article by former Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen on “why it pays to study children’s literature“), many of the links below include reading lists and course outlines, and offer plenty more books to add to your TBR pile!

Children’s literature courses at UK Universities

smallbookThe University of Roehampton offers an MA/PGDip in Children’s Literature . This course can also be completed by distance learning and you can get a good flavour of it here. You can follow the Roehampton course on Twitter: @NCRCL

The University of Bolton runs an MA in Children’s Literature and Culture, led by David Rudd. This is a part-time course, and a course outline can be found here. The University of Bolton also has two modules on the undergraduate BA English programme: Children’s Literature: Exploding the Canon and Constructing the Child in Film and Media (which includes adaptation). A brief description of these two courses can be found here.

Reading also offers an MA in Children’s Literature (the oldest accredited children’s literature course in the UK). Staff include Karin Lesnik-Oberstein, Sue Walsh and Neil Cocks.

Birkbeck used to offer both an MA Children’s Literature and MA Children’s Literature and Writing. Staff included former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen (@MichaelRosenYes) and author Julia Bell (@JuliaBell). I’ve included the link here as the course overview is still available (as of April 2014) and may be of interest.

An MA in English (Literatures of Childhood) is offered by Cantebury Christ Church University.

The University of Sunderland runs a Children’s Literature MA.

Cambridge University runs an MPhil/MEd Critical Approaches to Children’s Literature course and is closely linked to The Cambridge/Homerton Research and Teaching Centre for Children’s Literature.

From next year (2014-2015) you could study for an MA in Children’s Literature at Goldsmiths.

BJ Epstein (@bjepstein) teaches an undergraduate course in children’s literature at The University of East Anglia. Here’s a reading list and course outline.

The Open University offers a module in children’s literature. Click here to see the course outline. The Open University is dedicated to distance learning, and so this module is open to anyone worldwide (who meets the entry requirements).

Cardiff University runs a Level 1 course, “Exploring Children’s Literature“. It is not currently running, but you can register your interest for when it become available again. The webpage includes a course outline and reading list.

Oxford University’s Department for Continuing Education sometimes offers a course on Edwardian Children’s Literature, which is open to the public. The course is run by Dr Sara Zadrozny (@s_zb).

Regular undergraduate students at Oxford can also take an optional paper in Children’s Literature in in their 3rd year, though I cannot find an online link to the course details.

Anglia Ruskin has an undergraduate module in ‘Theorising Children’s Literature‘, and is about to validate a summer school MA in Children’s Literature.

The University of Central Lancashire runs Children’s Literature modules as part of the BA English Literature Programme, taught by Helen Day. Helen also runs the MA Writing for Children, which includes the History of Children’s Literature, Crossover Fiction and Screenwriting for Children.

The Children’s Literature Unit at Newcastle University is part of the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics and they have three staff who specialise in children’s literature. There are several children’s literature modules across their undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes, and they also offer an MLitt in Children’s Literature. A list of staff and their interests can be found here. The unit collaborates closely with Seven Stories, the National Centre for the Children’s Book (click here for a review of my last visit there).

The University of Southampton offers a module on Children’s Literature, co-ordinated by Karen Seymour.

The University of Worcester hosts the International Forum for Research in Children’s Literature (IFRCL). A module on children’s literature is available as part of the English Literary Studies BA, and is taught by Jean Webb.

At the University of Glasgow you can take an Honours option in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century British Literature for Children in the English Department, or an M Ed in Children’s Literature and Literacies in the School of Education.

The University of Wolverhampton offers a second year module in children’s literature.

Sheffield Hallam offers an optional Children’s Literature module for undergraduates on their BA English, BA English Literature, and BA Creative Writing courses.

The BA in English and BA in English and Education Studies at Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln include a second-year core module on ‘Children’s Literature’ covering texts from the eighteenth century to more recent work by Malorie Blackman, J. K. Rowling, and picture books.

The University of Lincoln has a third-year module on the literature of childhood, looking at texts about and by as well as for children, taught by Hannah Field.

The University of West England has a third-year module on ‘Children’s Fiction since 1900’, taught by Catherine Butler and Ann Alston, who also supervise PhDs in the field of children’s literature.

The University of Winchester runs an MA in Writing for Children, whislt Bath Spa offers an MA in Writing for Young People. These are a practical courses for aspiring authors, rather than literature appreciation courses.

Children’s Book Illustration courses at UK Universities

smallbookAnglia Ruskin University runs a well established MA Children’s Book Illustration. Martin Salisbury and Pam Smy lead a team of staff which includes many visiting children’s book illustrators. The University also runs a week long Children’s Book Illustration Summer School.

The University of Central Lancashire also runs an MA in Children’s Book Illustration. Undergraduate students can also modules on children’s book illustration as part of UCLan’s BA in Illustration.

Other universities with a strong tradition in general illustration though not specifically children’s book illustration include the University of Brighton, Kingston, Falmouth and the University of West England. The Manchester School of Art MA/MFA Illustration also incorporates elements of illustration for children, as does the University of Worcester’s BA in Illustration (where the course is run by illustrator Piet Grobler).

The MA Children’s Literature and Culture at the University of Bolton includes a unit, ‘Visual Narratives’ which looks not only at illustrated books but also comics and graphic novels. Unlike the others listed above this is not a practical art course but focuses on the interplay of text and illustration in young people’s texts, drawing on cultural theory, art theory and visual studies.

Looking to continental Europe, there are practical children’s book illustration courses in Italy (Sàrmede), Spain (Ilustratour) and Portugal.

My thanks go to to Catherine Butler, Farah Mendlesohn, Linda Sever, David Rudd, Pat Hanby, Lucy Pearson, B.J. Epstein, Diane Purkiss, Vanessa Harbour, Jean Webb, Martin Salisbury, Marta Borges, Maureen Farrell, Hannah Love, Julia Cameron, Zoe Boyd Clack, Daisy Johnson and Gabriela Steinke for their original responses on either the JISCMail’s Children’s Literature UK list, the JISCMail Picture Book Research List or Twitter.

All errors are of course my own. Please let me know about any other courses you know of, including those which are part-time and open to to the interested general public.

15 Responses

  1. Katherine Norman

    I was wondering about this the other day – but related to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). The free online courses as we have started doing a few of these.
    Have you come across any of these on children’s literature?
    Katherine Norman recently posted..World History Reference

    • Zoe

      Hi Katherine, I’m doing some research into MOOCs right now, but the short answer is not many, if any. There is going to be one on children’s comics but I need to find the link again – will post shortly

  2. Sam

    Great post, Zoe! As a second-year distance-learning MA student at Roehampton, I can testify to how interesting it is to study children’s literature, plus at MA level you get to come up with your own research questions and write essays on them (a blessing and a curse!). It’s good to see this area of literature is becoming popular now and well respected too.
    Sam recently posted..Sue Townsend: thank you for the memories

  3. Zoe

    Katherine, the MOOC about children’s comics will be run by the same person running this one, though details of the course specifically looking at children’s comics are not yet available.

  4. Nicola Darwood

    We also offer some units on our courses at the University of Bedfordshire. There’s a 3rd year unit, Children’s Fiction, which is taught on our undergraduate English programmes, and a postgraduate unit, Children’s and Young Adult Fiction, which is taught on our MA in English Literature.

  5. Sharon

    Zoe, this is excellent. Thanks so much for this blog post, really informative and useful. I’ve thought long and hard about doing an MA and seeing all the options makes a big difference.

  6. Erika Sagum

    Hi Zoe! This post was really helpful for me! I have narrowed down some of my choices for future MA studies. However, I would still like to hear from you which universities do you think would pass as your top two choices? Thanks!

  7. Zoe

    HI Erika, I haven’t studied on any of these courses so I can’t give a personal recommendation. However, I would say that the Roehampton literature course is generally highly regarded. As to illustration courses, Anglia Ruskin and Falmouth certainly have a reputation for creating great illustrators. However, as I say, I’ve not taken any of these courses, and don’t personally know any of the teachers, so do do your own research too!

  8. Josephine

    Instead of doing a full fledged masters in children’s literature. Do you know of any short courses on children’s literature ?

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