Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Examining the Interpretations Children Share from Their Reading of an Almost Wordless Picture Book during Independent Reading Time

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Examining the Interpretations Children Share from Their Reading of an Almost Wordless Picture Book during Independent Reading Time

Article excerpt


Reading is complex and multifaceted both within and outside school and as 'literacy' has broadened from being print centric to multimodal, the teaching of reading has focused on meaning making through multiple modes. This increased complexity also demands the taking of a critical reading stance as a reader attempts to understand the beliefs, values and positions offered within these diverse texts (Janks, 2012). Taking a critical stance is about reading 'against a text' and 'learning to have your say' (West, 1994, p. 93). A reader with a critical stance questions norms and rule systems, and exercises their power to take action that enhances lives (Comber, 2013; Luke, 2012). Short and colleagues (2003; 2004; 2011) argue that it is this ability to critique and to realise the existence of other perspectives that supports the development of true sensitivity and insight into others' experiences across cultures and within cultural groups.

Pedagogically, teachers are expected to create and deliver systematic and explicit reading experiences for students. Their aim is to arm students with a range of skills that work alongside text decoding such as visual, media and critical literacy for successful engagement in this environment. Whole class and small group learning experiences are designed with the intention (and perhaps assumption) that learners will apply these skills to their independent engagement with texts. But do they? How do children interpret and respond to the texts they access independently of teachers? How can we learn about their interpretations and responses?

Our study investigates children's interpretations of a common form of children's literature--a picture book--during a common daily classroom practice independent reading. The students were not part of an instructional teaching episode, instead they were invited to shared their interpretations following independent reading time. Capturing students' interpretations provides insight into their personal reading experience (Galda, 2013). Furthermore, it can develop teacher understanding about how critical and visual literacy skills taught during teacher directed episodes have (or have not) transferred into students' independent reading.

Independent reading time

Independent reading time is an enduring and common practice in Australian primary schools where students read texts considered to be within the scope of their reading capability. Students are usually free to choose reading material and children's literature of many forms will feature, for example, novels, picture books, magazines and factual texts. Alongside enjoyment, its purpose is to provide time for students to put into practice the skills taught during teacher directed lessons. As independent readers, Allington (2002) recommends Grade 4 students access a broad range of texts for a minimum of 20 minutes independent reading time daily.

Research about independent reading has focused on student engagement (e.g. Garan & DeVoogd, 2008) and home/school literacy connections (Krashen, 2004). Other applications include students' reading development in: fluency (e.g. Allington, 1983; Garan & DeVoogd, 2008), vocabulary (e.g. Krashen, 2004; Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2006), letter knowledge and phonemic awareness (e.g. de Jonga & Shareb, 2007), and comprehension related to standardised testing (e.g. Freeland et al., 2000; Kelley & Clausen-Grace, 2006). This study takes a focus on children's interpretations of a children's literature text during independent reading time.

Children's literature

Keifer (2008) observes that children's literature (picture books with narrative) is primarily intended to engage an aesthetic response. The protagonist is usually a child or representative of one, the plot is usually resolved satisfactorily and the content is generally something of interest to a child, such as friends or family. …

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