This part of my life featured BIG from January 2008 till July 2012.  I was awarded a four-year research grant by FCT, and I undertook some investigation at  the University of Aveiro entitled, English picturebook illustrations and language development in early years education. I enjoy using picturebooks and working with them in my classroom led me to think about how the words and the illustrations inter-animate together to create meaning and how children use each and the combination for learning English. My research investigated how the illustrations in particular can provide language learning affordances. My viva voce was on July 20th 2012, and it went very well. Comments from the seven-panel jury were very positive and here is a link to my thesis via the University library archives.

English picturebook illustrations and language development in early years education

Key words: Picturebook, illustrations, language development, linguistic repertoire, literary understanding

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to investigate how the picture-word dynamic within three English picturebooks affected children’s linguistic repertoire and language development. Using a qualitative case study approach and adopting a socio-constructivist stance in a naturalistic setting, three groups of pre-literate Portuguese children were filmed during whole class repeated read alouds in English and small group retells. Upon transcription, the resulting corpus was analysed using a grounded theory of literary understanding and emergent reading scales. The findings showed that children took an overwhelmingly analytical stance towards the picturebooks, directing their responses to the illustrations and using them to support meaning making. It was found that each visual and verbal interanimation provided distinct opportunities for language use, and furthermore that the format and structure inherent within each picturebook contributed to the children’s responses. However, the picturebooks at the more complex end of the picture-word dynamic afforded a more active involvement from the beholder, provoking more discussion around the illustrations and increased opportunities for the children’s linguistic repertoires to mediate second language development. In addition, the results revealed the importance of interaction during repeated readings in supporting children’s analysis of narrative and language development. Assertions are made based on these results, with implications in both mother tongue and second language classrooms, in relation to picturebook selection and valuing the illustrations, the importance of repeated read alouds and child-initiated discussion.

The University of Aveiro is a busy university. The Education department I belonged to is made up of research labs. The lab I was attached to is called LALE, you can find out more about LALE here and watch a great film on youtube.

If you want to know more about picturebooks go to my blog.