How Picture books enhance discourse and literary skills in young language learners
Marie Luise Rau, Saturday 9.00-9.30

A study of ca. 500 English-speaking schoolchildren, ages 4 to11 years, many of them of multi-ethnic background, showed that picturebooks provide new and effective stimuli and are apt to bring to light surprising capacities in children (Arizpe & Styles 2003). The potential of picturebooks lies in the interplay between pictures and text, which are interrelated in a counterpoint way in various respects. Counterpoint technique draws attention to different aspects of the narrative such as theme, characterization, metaphor, painting technique, point of view and shift of viewpoint. In addition, postmodern literature and the arts, as well as comic books, have influenced picturebook creation; so reading picturebooks introduces readers to new forms of narrative on the one hand and sharpens their awareness of comic book technique on the other hand. It is the pictures that spark classroom discourse. Changing camera position (e.g. close-up, low camera angle) highlights scenes of the story and focuses attention on the question from whose viewpoint the story is presented. It prepares students for the difficult task to identify narrator and (shifting) viewpoint in literary texts later-on. The relatively small amount of text makes the complex task easier and rewarding for young language learners (age 12 years or younger). Picturebooks which address both children and adults (dual audience books) make sophisticated reading for older students and allow for multiple interpretations. The diversity of themes covered by picturebooks offer useful incentives for classroom discussion. Students practise and enlarge their vocabulary and acquire both the basic vocabulary of text analysis and literary competence. Besides, a close look at pictures seems appropriate in a time where progress in visualisation trains to be quick on the uptake.
In this presentation several picturebooks are analysed in detail with a view to their didactic potential, whose validity is verified by empirical data collected in the classroom.

Dr Marie Luise Rau does research on picturebooks as a free scholar with support from Johann Gutenberg-University in Mainz (Prof. Dr. J. Meibauer, Department of Descriptive Linguistics). She taught languages at a German Gymnasium. After retirement she intensified her studies of first-language acquisition and published a book on literacy: Literacy. Vom ersten Bilderbuch zum Erzählen, Lesen und Schreiben. Haupt Verlag: Bern, Stuttgart, Wien, 2007/2. aktualisierte Auflage 2009 (= Literacy. From the first picturebook to storytelling, reading and writing, 2nd ed.). At the international conference in Troisdorf in April 2009: Children's books from 0 to 3: Where Literacy begins she gave a presentation on "Metaphors in picturebooks from 0 to 3" on the background of new findings in cognitive psychology. At present, her research focuses on structural and linguistic characteristics of picturebook stories for young readers.