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Truth, Fact And Feeling: An Investigation Of Children Making Meaning From Poetic Nonfiction Picture Books

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posted on 2019-07-15, 08:58 authored by Mary-Louise Maynes
‘Poetic nonfiction picture books’ (Kesler, 2012, p.338) are a growing group of multi-layered and complex picture books for children which combine nonfictional content with poetry and artistic images. These texts and children’s responses to them have so far received little attention in academic and educational literature. In this qualitative case study I investigated the responses of pairs of children (n=8) aged 9-10 years in a primary school in the East Midlands of England to a selection of texts which exemplified the features of this text type. The children’s conversations were recorded as they discussed the texts together and they were subsequently interviewed about their responses to them. Data was analysed through inductive thematic analysis and through applying deductive frames adapted from transactional reader-response theory (Rosenblatt, 1978 and Iser, 1978) and dialogic reading (Maine, 2015). The children’s conversations provoked more creative, imaginative and playful responses to the texts than the interviews, suggesting that open-ended approaches to reading nonfiction may promote engagement and active meaning-making. The findings indicated that the children understood the nonfictional nature of the texts but responded first to their aesthetic and emotive qualities. Responses were shaped by established reader identities built upon intertextual and personal experiences. The research demonstrates the contribution which children can make to discussions of their literature and I argue that this contribution merits greater consideration within literary criticism of children’s literature. The study highlights the need to develop children’s critical understanding of the different ways in which truths are represented in nonfiction texts and indicates the openings which the texts offer for these discussions. Finally it draws attention to the potential of this group of texts to widen children’s experience of nonfiction and to encourage an approach to reading nonfiction which recognises and values the breadth of emotive, aesthetic, personal and efferent response.



Atkin, Chris; Erle, Sibylle; Adams, Kate

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School of Education

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University of Leicester

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