, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 207-221
Date: 20 Apr 2010

Dramatic Interpretations: Performative Responses of Young Children to Picturebook Read-Alouds

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In this qualitative study, the author explores how young readers build literary understanding through performative responses in picturebook read-alouds. Performative responses allow children to create and express meaning in ways that go beyond talk and that engage their creativity and imagination. They include a variety of modalities, such as gesture, mime, vocal intonation, characterization, and dramatization. Certain children show a propensity for responding in individual or characteristic ways. By focusing on the performative responses of one second-grade reader, the author defines the characteristics of performative responses and how children build literary understanding through them. Performative responses helped this young, struggling reader to immerse herself in the story world, create the mood of the story, show an understanding of the unfolding narrative, deepen her understanding of characters, and involve her classmates in a rich, and sometimes raucous, exploration of stories through spontaneous dramatizations. The author argues that performative responses open up an imaginative world to children, allow children to contribute actively to the construction of meaning, give children agency in creating their own curriculum, and allow for a collaborative environment that builds on the strengths of the students in the group.

Donna Sayers Adomat is assistant professor in the Department of Literacy, Culture, and Language Education at Indiana University, Bloomington. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in literature for children and young adults and literacy methods courses.