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Reading and Reinterpreting Picture Books on Children’s Television: Implications for Young Children’s Narrative Literacy

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Abstract

Bookaboo is a television programme aiming to promote literacy and reading among young children. In each episode, a celebrity reads a book to Bookaboo, a dog who plays the drums in a rock band, in order to help him overcome stage fright. Using the episode featuring the picture book (Cowell and Layton in That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown, 2006) as a case study, this article explores how this type of adaptation of picture books transforms the original narrative, with implications for children’s developing narrative literacy. Taking a multimodal social semiotic perspective, this study investigates the changes in meaning which result from the employment of semiotic resources such as animation, sound, and camera movement in the representation of the book on the television show. We argue that the deployment of such resources can subtly reshape the meanings expressed through the modes of language and images in the original picture book, potentially affecting the child viewer’s engagement with the narrative. Examining the use of these resources in the picture book’s televisual representation is thus an important first step towards developing frameworks for evaluating the ability of television programmes that incorporate picture book reading to support children’s literacy.

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Notes

  1. That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown is part of the Emily Brown series. No other books from that series are discussed in this paper.

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Acknowledgments

The first author is currently supported for his PhD study by a CSC-MQ scholarship co-funded by China Scholarship Council [No. 201308370161] and Macquarie University [No. 2013136]. Additionally, we would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback and Dr. Catherine Butler for her excellent editorial support. We also would like to express our thanks to Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton for giving permission to reprint the illustrations from their picture book That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown.

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Correspondence to Kunkun Zhang.

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Kunkun Zhang is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Early Childhood, Faculty of Human Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. His research interests include linguistics, multimodality, and children’s literature across media. His PhD thesis explores the representation of picture books and book reading in television programmes for children.

Emilia Djonov is a Lecturer at the Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University, Australia. Her research interests and publications are in the areas of (critical) multimodal and hypermedia discourse analysis, social semiotics, visual communication, multimodal learning and multiliteracies education. She has published in journals such as Visual CommunicationSemioticaSocial Semiotics, and Text & Talk, and co-edited the volume Critical Multimodal Studies of Popular Discourse (Routledge, 2014, with Sumin Zhao).

Jane Torr is an honorary Associate Professor at the Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University, Australia. Her research interests include children’s early language and emergent literacy development, children’s responses to picture books, and educator-child talk in long day care nurseries. She has published in journals such as Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, Early Child Research Quarterly and Early Childhood Education Journal.

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Zhang, K., Djonov, E. & Torr, J. Reading and Reinterpreting Picture Books on Children’s Television: Implications for Young Children’s Narrative Literacy. Child Lit Educ 47, 129–147 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10583-015-9259-x

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