Exploring the potential of picture books for promoting critical multimodal literacy in young children: a study of picture books about child refugees
Picture books have long been recognised as an important resource for teaching children about complex social themes, from friendship and family relations to war, poverty, and inequality, thereby supporting the development of critical literacy. As picture books create meaning through the interplay of modes such as language and images, they are also a key resource for fostering multimodal literacy. Previous research, however, has tended to consider critical and multimodal literacy in isolation from each other, and studies of critical literacy rarely consider the years prior to school. This is why little is known about the potential of picture books to promote critical multimodal literacy in early childhood, that is, to draw young children’s attention to the role that words, images, and other semiotic resources play in raising complex social issues. This study takes a step towards addressing this gap through the critical multimodal discourse analysis of three award-winning picture books for 3-5-year-olds that represent the experiences of child refugees. The findings may support teachers looking to develop their capacity to foster critical multimodal literacy in young children through picture books. They may also inform curriculum design and future research aimed at promoting critical multimodal literacy in the prior-to-school years.