Children's Literature

Simmons launched the first Master of Arts degree in Children’s Literature in 1977 to provide a rigorous, disciplined study of children’s and young adult books for those who are — or who intend to be — involved in teaching, library services, publishing, writing, or related fields. Students apply high-level scholarly analysis to materials ranging from folklore and fantasy to contemporary realistic fiction, nonfiction, and picturebooks. With an emphasis on historical and critical analysis — including gender studies, ideological, and multicultural perspectives — our interdisciplinary curriculum draws upon literature, art, history, education, sociology, psychology, and media studies.

Students sitting in class looking at picture books

This is a 36-credit program with only four mandatory courses. Students can tailor their program experience with a large list of elective courses as they immerse themselves in a wide range of genres — poetry, nonfiction, fantasy, young adult realistic fiction — and investigate the ways that children's literature constructs childhood.

Why study Children's Literature?

Our Master’s program explores the multiple social, cultural, and professional perspectives that shape literature for today’s children and young adults. Coursework addresses topics such as book publishing, folklore, orality, poetry, nonfiction, writing fiction for children and young adults, and the multiple ways children’s literature constructs and reacts to constructions of childhood.

Our faculty come from academic and professional fields. Each student works closely with a faculty advisor to tailor their program to specific interests and future goals. Throughout the year, we offer a number of two-credit courses that use intensive weekend, week-long, or short-term models.

What can you do with an MA in Children’s Literature?

Students take advantage of career exploration and internship opportunities while in Boston or Amherst. Programs sponsored by the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature afford them networks of editors, authors, illustrators, critics, reviewers, teachers, and librarians. Our partnerships include The Horn Book, Inc., the Boston Book Festival, and Children’s Books Boston (a collaboration of Simmons with local children’s book publishers), among others.

Our alumni contribute to all areas of children’s and young adult book studies and publishing. Employers such as The Sheldon Fogelman Agency and publishers including Scholastic, Candlewick Press, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Roaring Brook Press, Lee & Low Publishers, and Charlesbridge hire graduates from our programs for a variety of editorial and marketing positions. Many graduates go on to leadership positions; the founder of the Boston Book Festival and the children’s book editor of Kirkus Reviews are both Simmons Children’s Literature alumni.

Our graduates have published best-selling and award-winning work for children and young adults. They also teach at places such as Boston Collegiate School, Sonoma Academy, and the University of Memphis. They work in youth services at the Boston Public Library. They translate works for international audiences.

Learn more about our Master’s in Children’s Literature program!

Simmons University’s MA in Children’s Literature prepares students to work in creating, analyzing, and publishing books for our youngest generation. Interesting in learning more? Request more information!


Admission Requirements

Applicants must hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution. While many of our current students majored in English as undergraduates, we encourage applications from across the humanities, arts, and media studies; additionally, applications for the social sciences and education are welcome. Applicants must submit official transcripts of all degree work, two letters of recommendation, a statement or purpose, a resume, and, for international students, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). An interview is strongly recommended, though not required. Admission deadlines are rolling for all three semesters.

Degree Requirements

Thirty-six credits are required for the degree, including 16 credits of general electives. The following five courses compose the required core of the program:

  • CHL 401 Criticism of Children's Literature
  • CHL 403 The Picturebook
  • CHL 413 Contemporary Realistic Fiction for Young Adults (g for MFA only; required MA)
  • CHL 414 Fantasy and Science Fiction (g for MFA only; required MA)
  • Four credits of history coursework drawn from general electives


  • CHL 404A Poetry for Young Readers: You be the Judge (2 credits) (h) (g)
  • CHL 411 Victorian Children's Literature (h)
  • CHL 415 The Whole Book Approach (2 credits)
  • CHL 419A Canadian Children's Literature: Fantasy (2 credits)
  • CHL 419B Humor (2 credits) (g)
  • CHL 420 Thesis (f, sp, su)
  • CHL 421 History of Children's Book Publishing
  • CHL 422 Editing the Children's Book Manuscript (2 credits)
  • CHL 423 19th Century American Children's Literature (4 credits) (h)
  • CHL 424B Nonsense and Subversive Rhymes (2 credits) (h) (g)
  • CHL 424C Series Fiction (2 credits) (h) (g)
  • CHL 427 Special Topics: Folk & Fairy Tales (2 credits) (h) (g)
  • CHL 427B The Americanization of Fairy Tales (2 credits) (h) (g)
  • CHL 428A A Single Text: The Graphic Novel and *The Wizard of Oz* (2 credits) (h) (g)
  • CHL 429A Re-Reading Race in Classic Children's Literature (2 credits) (h)
  • CHL 429B The Girl Reader 1868-1908 (2 credits) (h)
  • CHL 429C Culture Matters (h)
  • CHL 429D The Girl Reader 1908-1934 (2 credits) (h)
  • CHL 430 Writing for Children I
  • CHL 434 The Child and the Book
  • CHL 435A Creators and Aesthetics: Eric Carle (2 credits)
  • CHL 435B Creators and Aesthetics: Gary Schmidt (2 credits)
  • CHL 436A Nonfiction-Narrative (2 credits) (g)
  • CHL 436B Nonfiction-Expository (2 credits) (g)
  • CHL 437 Special Topics in Children's Literature: Positionality (4 credits)
  • CHL 450 Independent study
  • CHL 451 The Reviewer (2 credits)
  • CHL 50X Summer symposium and institute (4 credits)

(h) indicates that the course counts toward the required four elective credits of history coursework for the MFA and MA degrees.

(g) indicates that the course counts toward the required four elective credits of genre coursework for the MFA degree.

An elective course can only count toward one category. For example, CHL 427 can count two credits toward the history elective or the genre elective requirement, but not both.

Programs at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

All Children’s Literature degree and dual degree programs are offered on the Boston campus. In addition, the MA in Children’s Literature, MFA in Writing for Children, the dual degree MA/MFA are also offered at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst. Students can complete the MA in Children’s Literature/MS in Library Science with MA courses at the Carle and LIS courses on the Mount Holyoke campus. Founded by Eric Carle, the renowned author and illustrator of more than 70 books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the Carle is the first full-scale museum in this country devoted to national and international picture book art.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

In collaboration with The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Simmons offers all four graduate programs in Children's Literature onsite at The Carle. This includes our M.A. in Children's Literature, M.F.A. in Writing for Children, M.A. in Children's Literature/M.F.A. dual degree, and M.A. in Children's Literature/M.S. in Library Science dual degree offered in collaboration with Simmons's School of Library and Information Science program at Mount Holyoke. Founded in part by Eric Carle, the renowned author and illustrator of more than 70 books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is the first full-scale museum in this country devoted to national and international picture book art. The Carle is located in Amherst, in the heart of the Five Colleges area of Western Massachusetts. Learn more about the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Ready to take the next step? We'll guide you through the requirements and deadlines — and get you started on your way.

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Children's Literature at Simmons University

From picture books to young adult literature, classic works to contemporary prize-winners, you will explore the artistry of literature for children and young adults. Dare to discover new audiences and stories all your own.

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Our Faculty

Cathryn Mercier photo

Cathryn Mercier

  • Professor, Children's Literature Department Chair, Children's Literature Graduate Programs Director, Center for the Study of Children's Literature Director
Amy Pattee photo

Amy Pattee

  • Associate Professor School of Library and Information Science and Children's Literature