The purpose of my talk is to discuss the nature of the picture book and what it means to read one in an ELT classroom.
The picture book as a literary genre is varied in form and format, spanning a range of styles and content matter: what holds this variety together is the presence of illustrations. But this definition is not enough, for there are books with pictures that are not picture books.
I shall argue that a picture book is a multimodal object, containing two texts, a visual and a verbal, which together, in a multiplicity of ways, create meaning. Both these texts need to be skillfully read in order understand the message.
If we consider the picture book as an object, we find that its message may begin on the cover; it may continue through the front endpapers, passing through the dedication and the publisher information. It may run onto the title page and only then through the pages of the picture book itself. A picture book creator makes conscious decisions about how and where images are positioned, what colours are used, whether they appear in a frame or bleed to the edges of a page, on recto or verso pages or as double page spreads. The back endpapers may continue the message and the back cover may also include information which contributes in some way.
With reference to recent empirical research I shall argue that, as practitioners using picture books, we should be more aware of how a picture book reveals its message and present the picture book to our students as a an object with a message to be discovered.
Sandie Mourão specialises in pre-school and lower primary ELT, and is particularly interested in the use of free play and children’s literature. At present she is completing a doctorate at the University of Aveiro, Portugal. Her research involves investigating the role of picture book illustrations in foreign language acquisition.