Assessment in Children's Literature: Ways Young Children Can Make Meaning from Stories of Testing and Competition

Deb L. Marciano, Jessica B. Graves, Sharon Black

Abstract

Forms of student assessment, particularly testing and competition, have generated high levels of anxiety and criticism from educators, families, policymakers, and members of the general public. How about the children, the most vulnerable of those affected. Authors and illustrators of children's literature, including picture books and early chapter books, have attempted to represent assessment in ways that can help children to deal with their questions, misunderstanding, and fear. The authors of this article explain ways children make meaning from books they read or have read to them, including the relationship of visual images and text, cultural symbols and contexts from their daily lives, and personal responses to the characters. Teachers and parents can use knowledge of these processes in helping children understand and deal with this troubling aspect of their lives.

In October 2013 several popular authors and illustrators of children's books, among them Judy Blume, Judith Viorst, Maya Angelou, and Lee Bennet Hopkins, submitted a letter petitioning President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to reduce high stakes testing in schools. This initiative, organized by The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), reflects the opinions of some of the best known children's book creators who contend that students spend more time preparing for reading tests than they do reading. More than 120 authors and illustrators expressed their concerns in that letter, claiming that current high stakes testing stifles creativity, authentic reading and learning, and exploration (Strauss, 2013). To date, implementation and requirements for high-stakes testing have not changed.

Criticisms of high stakes standardized testing are well known among educators (teachers and administrators), but little has been discussed that represents the most affected individuals—the children. Children receive information and form opinions in a wide diversity of ways. Research has indicated that picture books contribute to meaning making in young children (Sipe, 1998, 2007, 2008; Sipe & Ghiso, 2005), and the testing and competition they are exposed to in the schools is one area in which a lot of meaning needs to be made.

This article investigated ways that assessment, specifically testing and performance competition, have been represented in the books children read or have read to them. To explore ways in which children receive potential messages, portrayals of assessment in children's literature have been noted as they might be processed and interpreted by children.

Fifteen picture and early chapter books with school assessment themes, published in the United States between 1980 and 2017, were examined. These samples of children's literature were not intended to represent research or compiled children's comments. However, many of them have been confirmed by teachers and parents as representing fairly accurately what children know and think.[1]

Examining ways that children's book authors and illustrators have represented testing and other assessment experiences for children has reinforced several ways in which children's literature is known to represent life experiences for these young readers and listeners, enabling them to make meaning as they read or are read to from these books. First, children make meaning from a combination of text and illustrations, not from words alone. Additionally, children make meaning in terms of their culture and surroundings; they do not process books in isolation, particularly books on omnipresent aspects of their experience such as assessment. Finally, children make meaning as they connect with characters in a story, both in their affinity with the characters as individuals and in their ability to see themselves in the characters' situations. Understanding these processes, teachers and parents can work constructively with the books to strengthen and enhance healthy attitudes toward assessment in the schools.

Relationship Between Text and Illustrations

Picture books are more than just books with pictures (Sipe, 2008); these books for young children juxtapose text and illustrations in ways that help young readers/listeners construct knowledge. "The story depends on the interaction between written text and image [as] both have been created with a conscious aesthetic intention" (Arizpe & Styles, 2003, p. 22). As they gain experience using the visual-verbal blend of text and illustrations to make meaning, young children learn to look for personal and social meaning in the pictures that will guide them as they seek meaning in the more abstract medium of words, which is less natural and automatic for many of them. Just as many draw in order to explore their ideas or experiences before writing about them, they may use book illustrations to work their way into the text of a story.

In interviewing second graders, Prior et al. (2012) found that these children were particularly attentive to pictorial story content such as character actions, facial expressions, body posture, and character relationships as they used "visual information to better understand the characters they [met] in stories" (p. 201).

Pinky and Rex and the Spelling Bee (Howe, 1991, illustrated by Sweet) is the third in a series of 12 about second grade "best friends" —Pinky (a boy who likes pink) and Rex (a girl who loves "boyish" activities); many children are quite familiar with the pair. In portraying the test or performance anxiety children often experience, the illustrator supports the text by focusing on facial expressions, posture, and nervous activities (or lack thereof) for three characters: Pinky, Rex, and Anthony (the new boy in class). The illustrations tell the story. As Pinky and Rex walk to school, Rex, a consistent poor speller, shows dismay in her face, which turns to terror as the two sit on a curb: She slumps nervously and grasps her chin in her hands. Pinky, recognized as the best speller in his grade, walks confidently with spring in his step. When they sit down, his facial expression turns to sympathetic concern for Rex, but he is still confidently upright. As Rex misses her first word in the spelling bee, her face accurately portrays first shame and then despair as the class laughs.

As the spelling bee continues, most of the students go down fairly quickly, except Pinky and Anthony. Afraid he may not win this time, Pinky's face shows the anxiety Rex showed on the way to school, and he seems to lean against the blackboard. Anthony stands tall and confident, pointing to himself as he talks to the student next to him. (Pinky, by the way wears jeans and baggy sweater; Anthony wears dressier pants and an elaborate sweater.) At lunch Pinky's face becomes more stressed; he slumps over with his elbows on the table. Rex, recognizing Pinky's feelings, assures him that there are worse things than losing a spelling bee; Pinky can't think of any. In his nervousness, he can't eat, but he drinks a lot.

After lunch Anthony misses a word and Pinky spells it correctly; he is still champion of the second grade, but the excess liquid from lunch is too much for him; he wets his pants in front of the class. Pinky's face shows complete horror followed by shame. Even Anthony looks shocked and steps backward for a moment before dancing up and down and laughing uproariously—along with many others in the class. Rex does not laugh, nor does the teacher, who is comforting and gentle in her expression as she puts her hand on Pinky's shoulder and looks directly into his eyes. On the way home Pinky is still upset, but his face relaxes a little as Rex puts a hand on his arm and the two declare their friendship. In the final picture the pair are racing home with comfortable expressions on their faces.

Thus from faces, postures, and gestures showing relationships, a very young child could easily retell the story—or perhaps project it initially. Even a child reading or absorbed in listening to the text has an enhanced experience by watching the faces, postures, and motions and emotions portrayed in the illustrations as the text carries narration and dialogue.

Cultural Symbols and Contexts

As they make meaning from the blend of pictures and text, children involve aspects of their culture and their surroundings. Familiar cultural symbols and contexts impact meanings children make by helping them connect pictures and story with what they understand and value (or devalue) in their daily experience. Studies by Hall (1997), Fiske (1991), and Rosenblatt (1978) have demonstrated ways in which such semiotics impact individuals' interpretation of what they view, hear, and read.

Popular culture is comprised and conveyed by many forms of media in addition to literature, including television, print ads, and the Internet (Baxter, 2010; Marciano, 2001), along with song lyrics and movies; these all have potential to contribute to young children's understanding of their world. Marc Brown's Arthur, a rather expressive third-grader mouse, has become his own cultural symbol among young children both for the huge (indeterminate) number of books about him, along with his own public television show. Like Pinky and Rex, Arthur is stressed over a spelling bee, which climaxes other stresses in his school situation. 

Unlike Pinky, Rex, and their classmates, Arthur, his family, his classmates, and school personnel are animals. The teacher who is causing them grief is Mr. Ratburn, very distinctly drawn as a rat, though usually with a detached rather than threatening expression on his face. In talking about him, the children choose threats commonly mentioned in their culture: Arthur is portrayed in one illustration as in prison with a huge ball and chain attached to his leg and in another as a target of spells emitted by Mr. Ratburn dressed as a vampire and surrounded by bats—looking threatening rather than detached on this occasion. The principal, a large bear, brings in a huge trophy, a common cultural symbol associated with stressful competition. Most pictures of Arthur include paper and pencil or a book or stack of books—more common symbols of assignments and assessments that children will recognize and relate to. Arthur's face is continually portrayed as worried and exhausted. His parents are consistently portrayed with mild support in their faces and postures; his preschool sister consistently has a mocking expression and obnoxious comments. 

Irony is an aspect of popular culture that authors, poets, and illustrators bring to children's picture books. Fiske asserted that it is important "to analyze texts in order to expose their contradictions" (1991, p. 105). The visually and linguistically ironic Testing Miss Malarkey (Finchler, illustrated by O'Malley, 2000) takes cultural irony and humor to a new level. Readers' are prepared from the beginning as the cover shows a bewildered Miss Malarkey inundated by hands waving sheets of paper, the inside cover is a two-page spread consisting of a variety of sharpened pencils, the first title page shows the approach of an armored truck with IPTU Statewide Test on the side (say the initials slowly), and the second title page shows a policeman delivering the tests in a conspicuously locked strong box.

Cultural symbols of standardized test fears are rampant among the adults in the story: Miss Malarkey looks foolish biting her fingernails, Principal Wiggins literally flips his wig (high in the air) twice, and the P.E. teacher, Mr. Fittanuff, has the class practice meditation and yoga (tying himself in knots as he does it). Parents, of course, get their share of cultural satire. The narrating character's mother has him fill out a ditto sheet based on his bedtime story, get plenty of sleep, and eat a huge breakfast; she even packs a Power Bar 2000 in his lunch. A PTA meeting is addressed by "Dr. Scoreswell, the Swengali of Tests," complete with turban, and parents bombard him with questions on such matters as whether test results will damage their child's chance for getting into an Ivy League university. A crowd of teachers portraying various pains and sicknesses are lined up at the school nurse's office; only one student seems to need medical care, and she gets sick in the hall. 

Children are not as overwrought as the adults; their expressions vary from slightly disturbed, to puzzled, to bored: Eye rolling and eye shutting both occur. One student falls asleep twice during the test, another draws ninja turtles on his scratch pad, and another gets so stressed about erasing that she erases her entire test.

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day, a text-illustration combination begun by Dr. Seuss and completed after his death by Jack Prelutsky (text) and Lane Smith (illustrations), carries assessment of an entire school into Seussian chaos. (Dr. Seuss himself has become a cultural symbol for readers and listeners of every age, and the presence of his name and many aspects of his style add to the cultural recognition.) Diffendoofer School is to be visited and evaluated—possibly closed. And it may be in some danger. The curriculum covers topics such as "smelling," "laughing," and "how to tell a cactus from a cow." The faculty and staff play havoc with traditional teacher images. Everyone's favorite teacher is Miss Bonkers—who definitely lives up to her name.

Though expressed very differently, the basic message from Diffendoofer School is the same as the lessons from Pinky and Rex, Arthur and his classmates, and Miss Malarkey's students: Traditional competitions and standardized assessments are not the most important events or accomplishments: Personal relations and caring, individuality and creativity, learning and loving it are what really make life richer and more joyful. 

Personal Connections

Connections to real-life experiences.For the deepest, most complete meaning-making experience, children must be able to see themselves in the story characters—to connect their real-life experiences with those portrayed for participants in the story (Wolfenbarger & Sipe, 2007). As children engage with characters in the books they read and have read to them (Martinez & Roser, 2005; Prior, Wilson, & Martinez, 2012; Sipe, 2007; Sipe, & Ghiso, 2005), they make text-to-self connections (Rosenblatt, 1978; Harvey & Goudvis, 2007), which are foundational to the construction of knowledge.

Through discussions and activities, teachers can gently prompt some of these connections as they encourage children to engage creatively with the stories. For example, First Grade Takes a Test (Cohen, 1980, illustrated by Himler) introduces a group of children who have no idea of what a test is except for a terse comment from Anna Maria, the class show off: "Oh, good. . . Now we can find out how smart we are." The multiple choice questions make no sense to the children: For example, how can George choose whether rabbits eat lettuce, dog food, or sandwiches when he knows that "rabbits have to eat carrots, or their teeth will get too long and stick into them." George draws a carrot on his test. Only one of the children finishes the test or does very well on it—Anna Maria, who is taken out of the class to join a gifted program. The other children begin referring to themselves and each other as "dummy." Their teacher stops them abruptly:

Listen to me . . .The test doesn't tell everything. It doesn't tell all the things you can do! You can build things! You can read books! You can make pictures! You have good ideas! And another thing. The test doesn't tell you if you are a kind person who helps your friend. Those are the important things (n.p.).

A review, written in conjunction with this book receiving an Oppenheim Platinum book award, suggested that teachers have students write about their feelings after taking a specific test and receiving its results (available at Goodreads.com, 2017), clearly seeking the text-to-real-life connection. The review also suggested that teachers "have the class point out and make a list of what each of their classmates is good at," emphasizing connections to the heart of the story's message.

Many books can also be entered through activities. Spoken Arts Media recommended that after reading Testing Miss Malarkey students can enjoy making up funny test questions and acting out skits based on aspects of the story (available at Spoken Arts Media.com, n.d.)—also putting themselves creatively into the story and some of its messages. A published study guide recommends that after reading and considering the roster of teachers for Diffendoofer School, students draw and name a teacher they would like to have (available from Seussville, 2010)—modeled, of course, on the eccentricities of Miss Bonkers and her cohorts. This "faculty" becomes a classroom display. Children can actually enter and join with the imaginations of Dr. Seuss and Jack Prelutsky.

Table 1 lists the 15 books that were examined in this study regarding their treatment of themes related to testing and other forms of assessment. To aid teachers in selecting books for classroom use, the genre, type of assessment, and approximate grade level of the book characters have been included, along with notes relevant to using the book.

Table 1: Books with Themes Related to Testing and Other Forms of Student Assessment

Title of literature

Type of text

Type of assessments

Grade level

Comments

Arthur's Teacher Trouble

PB

spelling

3rd

100 word spelling test - Too much on tests

First grade takes a test

PB

standardized

1st

No one best answer in multiple choice; Sorting by ability

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day

PB

standardized

K-5

Progressive school must take standardized test; Threat of going to a one-size fits all school

In trouble w/teacher

TR

spelling

3

Good at other areas

It's test day Tiger Turcoutte

TR

standardized

3

Uncertain of which race to check, since he is multiracial

Jamaica & the substitute  teacher

PB

spelling

1

Cheating

Junie B 1st grade cheater pants

TR

writing

1

Cheating

Mathsketball

PB

math

3

Math phobia despite preparation

Phoebe & the spelling bee

PB

Spelling bee

4

Physically ill – strain on friendships

Pinky & Rex & the spelling bee

TR

Spelling bee

4

Strain on friendship; humiliation

Report card

CH

standardized

5

Doing poorly to make lower students look better; Takes a stand to degrade the tests

Testing Miss Malarkey

PB

standardized

3

Teacher, principal and student anxiety; Everyone worries, everyone succeeds

The Anti-Test Anxiety Society

PB

all testing

3

Physical ills; Steps to relax

The Big Test

PB

standardized

3

Test preparation

Thomas's sheep & great geography test

PB

geography

4

Inability to sleep despite having studied very hard; too much information

TOTALS 15

9 PB

1 CH

4 TR

5 Spelling

6 standardized

1 math

1 weekly

1 writing

1 geography

 

 

Note: PB = picture book, CH = chapter book, PO = poem, TR = transitional book

Test anxiety as a prevalent problem. When children are able to see themselves in the characters and situations portrayed in stories, they can feel the anxieties, frustrations, embarrassments, and other emotions reflected in the texts and illustrations. As they bring these feelings to the surface, they also observe how the characters deal with them. For example, they learn with the students of First Grade Takes a Test (a) that failing to understand test questions does not mean that they are "dumb," (b) that what they can do is more important than a test score, and (c) that being a kind and caring person who helps friends is most important of all. This process, referred to as bibliotherapy, is discussed in detail and exemplified skillfully in another article in this journal (Heath, 2017).

Many students (kindergarten through college) suffer from test anxiety. This can range from mildly uncomfortable to completely disabling. As teachers subtly guide students in making meaning, they can consider specific anxieties and symptoms of those in their classroom who would benefit from more direct explanation—as given by the teacher of the afflicted first grade.

Zeidner (1998) suggested that learning and test performance are impacted by test anxiety. We might add that human discomfort, disappointment, and discouragement are seriously impacted as well. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has cited three causes of test anxiety, all of which are represented in one way or another in the books studied:

  • Fear of Failure. While the pressure to perform can act as a motivator, it can also be devastating to individuals who tie their self-worth to the outcome of a test.
  • Lack of Preparation. Waiting until the last minute or not studying at all can leave individuals feeling anxious and overwhelmed.
  • Poor test history. Previous problems or bad experiences with test taking can lead to a negative mindset and influence performance on future tests (n.p.).

The most prevalent cause of test anxiety in the children's books studied is fear of failure and its consequences. The first graders are afraid that the test will reveal that they are not smart (as noted by their bossy classmate; Cohen, 1980). Arthur knows he is representing his classmates, and he does not want to let them down (Brown, 1986). Pinky and Rex are both worried about their reputations: Rex being laughed at when she goes down early; Pinky being deposed as the best speller in the second grade (Howe, 1991). If the Diffendoofer School fails its assessment, the school will close and the students will have to go to a boring school that dully conforms to all the rules (Seuss, Prelutsky, 1998). In Miss Malarkey's school the students are more puzzled than really fearful, but the principal, teachers, and parents are terrified because they know they will be judged if the students fail (Finchler, 2000). 

Any of these books can support a teacher or parent in helping children to understand (a) that they are not alone in being afraid to fail, (b) that fear of failure is uncomfortable—even painful; they may worry about what families, peers, and teachers will think; they may even be concerned that their school will be closed or their teachers will be judged unfairly, but (c) they can understand, along with the book characters, that friends will still be friends, teachers will still care about them, and there are many things they can do that are far more important than test scores or spelling bee status.

A second common cause of test anxiety acknowledged by ADAA is lack of preparation. Pinky and Arthur have both prepared for their spelling bees, and both of them do well—in spelling the words, that is. A lack-of-preparation experience is portrayed in Jamaica and the Substitute Teacher (Havill, 1999). Jamaica loves her substitute teacher and tries hard to please her—Jamaica performs well consistently in a variety of subjects and skills. But she has forgotten about a spelling test, and, being unprepared, is not certain about one of the words. She looks on a friend's paper, but is miserable afterward because she knows that her perfect paper is not really a perfect paper. She confesses to the teacher, who gently and supportively explains, "You don't have to be perfect to be special in my class. All my students are special. I'm glad you're one of them." The illustrator (Anne Sibley O'Brien) has created a multicultural classroom, including both Jamaica and the teacher as individuals of color, which strengthens the message of inclusion.

Phoebe and the Spelling Bee puts an interesting twist on learning spelling words. Phoebe does not want to bother to learn the list of words for the spelling bee, so she doesn't. Because she is very creative, with a wicked sense of humor, Phoebe makes up silly rhymes about the words on the list. In making up the rhymes she actually learns the words, except brontosaurus.

The Big Test (Danneberg, 2011) puts a little mild satire on the issue of standardized test preparation. Mrs. Hartwell is so concerned that all of her students must be prepared for the tests that she overdoes the lessons and practice. Test anxiety increases, along with visits to the school nurse. Mrs. Hartwell learns that what she really needs to do is teach the children to relax. As the readers laugh at the gentle humor, they are reassured that anxiety over testing is normal, and they can learn to control it.

Many students (and non-students, as well) have test anxiety because they have a past history of failing tests and assessments. For example, Rex, in the book about Pinky and Rex, has always been a poor speller. She is terrified of going down on her first word and having the class laugh. She threatens to go to the moon if this happens, and it does. She remains on earth, however, because Pinky needs her after his disaster. The book ends on an affirmation despite the events of the spelling bee.

The early chapter book In Trouble with Teacher (Demuth, 1995) introduces Montgomery, a third grader who has all three causes of text anxiety: his past history shows he is not naturally a good speller, he has not studied, and he is afraid his teacher, who is stricter and gives harder spelling words than his second grade teacher, will be angry when he fails the test. "The trouble lay low in the back of his mind. Montgomery tried to hide from it. He pulled the pillow over his head. But the trouble marched to the front anyway." Montgomery does fail the test, but he (and the reader) can hardly believe that his teacher does not scold or embarrass him; she compliments the stories he writes, and she is willing to offer encouragement and help with the spelling problem. The tension is accurately reflected, but relieved by typical middle-grade jokes. The kid-friendly wording of the text and the cartoon-style illustrations enhance the underlying warmth and dry humor that make this book so attractive for the target age group of 9-12 year olds. Students can easily see themselves in Montgomery and learn lessons along with him. The strengths of this book were confirmed by its selection as a Children's Book of the Year by the Bank Street College Child Study Children's Book Committee.

In The Anti-Test Anxiety Society (Cook, 2014), highly test anxious B.B. believes that TEST stands for "terrible every single time." Her teacher invites her to join the anti-test anxiety society, where she learns that TEST really means "think each situation through," and the teacher gives her "12 amazing test taking strategies." This book, put out by the National Center for Youth Issues, is a how-to book as well as a story.

Similarly, Mathsketball: A Story of Test Anxiety (Winnett, 2014) is a story of a test anxious individual with embedded direct advice for dealing with the problem. Ethan does very well on testing with most subjects —except math. He has a history of being unable to take math tests; every time he looks at a math test the numbers seem to become an alien language that he can't understand. His friend Jack tries to help Ethan by playing a game of mathsketball: Each shot brings a math question. Ethan's teacher also gives him ideas on how to relax both before the test and while he is taking it. The book includes many strategies and eight pages of activities that can be helpful in overcoming math anxiety.

Table 2 includes the books from the study charted to reflect the relationship of the themes concerning text anxiety as it is presented to children.

Table 2: Picture Book Themes Related to Test Anxiety

Title of book

Fear of failure

Lack of preparation

Poor testing history

Arthur's teacher trouble

Y

 

 

First grade takes a test

Y

 

 

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day

Y

 

 

In trouble w/teacher

Y

Y

Y

It's test day Tiger Turcoutte

Y

 

Y

Jamaica & sub teacher

Y

Y

 

Junie B 1st grade cheater pants

 

Y

 

Mathsketball

Y

 

Y

Phoebe & the spelling bee

Y

 

 

Pinky & Rex & the spelling bee

Y

 

Y

Report card

 

 

 

Testing Miss Malarkey

Y

 

 

The Anti-Test Anxiety Society

Y

 

Y

The Big Test

Y

 

Y

Thomas's sheep & great geography

test

Y

 

 

TOTALS 15

14

3

6

Children make meaning from what they read or have read to them. They make meaning as they respond to the unique relationship and interaction of text and illustrations. They enhance meaning as they recognize the contexts and symbols from their culture that have become part of their lives, their thinking, and their behavior. They internalize meaning as they relate story characters to themselves, making significant self-to-text inferences that lead to changes in attitudes, values, and conduct. Regarding testing and other forms of school assessment, they are able to interpret much of what they absorb from their environment (specifically told to them, observed, or deduced from experiences and impressions) in terms of picture books, transitional books, and early chapter books that have been written for this purpose. If teachers and parents are aware of how children are making meaning on a topic that has as much influence and fear attached to it as school assessment, they can significantly help to relieve children's test anxiety and influence them in developing healthy attitudes toward testing that at this time is mandated and unavoidable.

Deb L. Marciano, PhD is an associate professor in the Department of Early Childhood and Special Education at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA.

Jessica Baxter Graves, PhD is an associate professor and department chair in the Department of Education and Teacher Preparation at the College of Coastal Georgia, Brunswick, GA.

Sharon Black is an associate teaching professor and college editor in the David O. McKay School of Education at BYU. She is also coeditor of the Utah Journal of Reading.

References

Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). (n.d.). Test anxiety. Retrieved from https://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/children/test-anxiety.

Arizpe, E., & Styles, M. (2003). Children reading pictures: Interpreting visual texts. London, England: Routledge.

Baxter, J. M. (2010). Technology in literacy: Exploring the possibilities. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Georgia, Athens, GA.

National Center for Fair and Open Testing. (n.d.). FairTest. Retrieved from http://www.fairtest.org/

Fiske, J. (1991). Understanding popular culture. New York, NY: Routledge.

Hall, S. (1997). Representations: Cultural representations and signifying practices. London, England: Sage Publications Ltd.

Harvey, S., & Goudvis, A. (2007). Strategies that work: Teaching comprehension for understanding and engagement. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

Heath, M. A. (2017). Grief-themed literature for elementary school children. The Utah Journal of Literacy, 19(2).

Marciano, D. L. (2001). Interpretations of schooling in contemporary children's books (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.

Martinez, M., & Roser, N. L. (2005). Students' developing understanding of character. In N. L. Roser, M. Martinez, J. Yokota, & S. F. O'Neal (Eds.), What a character! Character study as a gateway to literary understanding (pp. 6-13). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Prior, L. A., Willson, A., & Martinez, M. (2012). Picture this: Visual literacy as a pathway to character understanding. Reading Teacher, 66(3), 195-206.

[Reviews of First Grade Takes a Test.] (2017). Retrieved from www.goodreads.com/reviewlist 52053910

Rosenblatt, L. (1978). The reader the text the poem: Transactional theory of the literary work. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Sipe, L. R. (1998). How picture books work: A semiotically framed theory of text–picture relationships. Children's Literature in Education, 29(2), 97–108.

Sipe, L. R. (2007). Storytime: Young children's literary understanding in the classroom. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Sipe, L. R. (2008). Young children's visual meaning-making in response to picture books. In J. Flood, S. B. Heath, & D. Lapp (Eds.), Handbook of research on teaching literacy through the communicative and visual arts (Vol. 2, pp. 381-391). New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Sipe, L. R., & Ghiso, M. P. (2005). Looking closely at characters: How illustrations support children's understandings of character through picture book illustrations. In N. Roser & M. Martinez (Eds.). What a character! Character study as a guide to literary meaning making in grades K-8 (pp. 134-153). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Strauss, V. (2013). Top authors—including Maya Angelou—urge Obama to curb standardized testing. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answersheet/wp/2013/10/22/top-authors-including-maya-angelou-urge-obama-to-curb-standardized-testing/?utm_term=.02ff3aec2abe

Teaching Guide for Hooray for Diffendoofer Day. (2010). Retrieved from www.seussville.com/activities/HOORAY

Testing Miss Malarkey Study Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved from spokenartsmediaandstudyguides/Testing Miss Malarkey.pdf

Wolfenbarger, C. D., & Sipe, L. (2007). A unique visual and literary art form: Recent research on picturebooks. Language Arts, 83(3), 273-280.

Zeidner, M. (1998). Test anxiety: The state of the art. New York, NY: Plenum Press.

Children's Literature References

Brown, M. (1986). Arthur's teacher trouble. Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Company.

Clements, A. (2006). Report card. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Cohen, M. (1980). First grade takes a test. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Cook, J. (2014). The Anti-Test Anxiety Society. Chattanooga, TN:National Center for Youth Issues.

Dannenberg, J. (2011). The big test. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

Demuth, P. (1995). In trouble with teacher. New York, NY: Dutton Juvenile.

Finchler, J. (2000). Testing Miss Malarkey. New York, NY: Walker Children's Reprint edition.

Flood, P. H. (2004). It's test day Tiger Turcoutte. New York, NY: Carolrhoda Books.

Havill, J. (2001). Jamaica and the substitute teacher. New York, NY: HMH Books for Young Readers.

Howe, J. (1999). Pinky and Rex and the spelling bee. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Lane, T. (1998). Thomas's sheep and the great geography test. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing.

Park, B. (2004). Junie B 1st grade cheater pants. New York, NY:Random House Books for Young Readers.

Saltzberg, B. (1996). Phoebe and the spelling bee. New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children.

Seuss, T. G., & Prelutsky, J. (1998). Hooray for Diffendoofer Day. New York, NY:Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Winnett, E. (2014). Mathsketball: A story of test anxiety. Colbert, OK: Counseling with HEART.