, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 93-106,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 15 Feb 2012

Reading Picturebooks as Literature: Four-to-Six-Year-Old Children and the Development of Literary Competence


This article explores what it means to be a competent reader of picture storybooks by examining the abilities of some 4–6-year-olds, who were read stories aloud in class. Jonathan Culler’s concept of “literary competence” was used to tease out the children’s implicit knowledge of the structures and conventions that enable them to read a work of fiction as literature. From a more practical point of view, Lawrence Sipe’s class-based work, discussing picture storybooks with first and second grade children, provided some useful guidelines. This current study draws on an educational design experiment involving “literary conversation guides,” which help probe children’s understanding of such story features as character and irony.

Coosje van der Pol has a Master’s in Culture Studies from Tilburg University and a PhD in Culture Studies from the same university. She is currently working as a lecturer on the “Children’s Literature” Master’s course at Tilburg University and also lectures on “Sociology of the Arts” at the same university. She writes picturebook reviews and articles on children’s responses to picturebooks for various journals (e.g. De Leeswelp, Leesgoed) and also gives guest lectures at teacher training colleges in the Netherlands and Flanders.