This chapter explores historical, social, and political influences on children’s literature, including recent trends related to digital and technological influences, such as incorporating multiple ways of communicating in response to multimedia messages prevalent in digital formats. Children’s literature offers insight into the cultural, social, and political history of the place and time at which it was written. The beliefs, norms, and values of the specific historical time and place it was written are reflected in the content of the writing, the style, and genre of the writing, and the audience or market for which the text was written. Placing children’s literature within these contexts allows readers to recognize and critique the cultural messages carried within children’s books and consider the potential effect of those messages on readers. While differences in the children’s literature from the past may be readily apparent, contemporary books also reflect cultural, social, and political worlds of today, making it equally important for educators to analyze the cultural messages contained within them as well.

After developing an understanding of contemporary children’s literature, this chapter focuses on how teachers can take full advantage of children’s books in the classroom. In particular, children’s literature incorporating multiple forms of communication, such as audio or movement, can create broader opportunities for students to respond. These texts lend themselves especially well to arts-based responses, which use visual art, music, drama, or dance activities to enhance understanding of texts. Giving students opportunities to read books that communicate in multiple ways, and then giving students opportunities to respond to those books using multiple ways of communicating, prepares them to communicate effectively in an ever-changing world.