Representation of picture books and book reading on children's television: a social semiotic study with implications for early literacy learning
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 13:35 authored by Kunkun Zhang
It has frequently been observed that multimedia, including television, have fundamentally reshaped children's literacy practices. To address concerns expressed by some commentators about young children's declining engagement with print-based literature in "the age of the screen", some television programmes have been produced in which picture books are read to the audience. While there are undoubtedly many factors influencing the decisions made by those responsible for creating certain types of television programmes, one reason sometimes cited for the production of such programmes is that they form a type of "public pedagogy" aimed at encouraging book reading between preschool-aged children and their parents. Clearly, there are significant contextual differences between the picture-book reading that occurs in the home between very young children and their parents, and the scripted picture-book reading that is presented by actors on television programmes. Little research has been done, however, on the ways in which television programmes transform (or "resemiotise") the original print-based picture-book text through the employment of various resources such as animation and camera angle, and then re-present it to the viewing audience. Likewise, little is known about whether, and if so how, the practice of adult-child shared reading, as it is scripted, acted and presented on television programmes, resembles the actual reading experiences of young children in the home. This recontextualisation of picture books and the ways they are read to children raises issues surrounding the potential of such programmes to encourage and support shared reading of picture books in the home. If, as is frequently asserted, young children prior to school age are spending a large proportion of their time watching television, it is significant for parents and educators to consider the manner in which television programmes present picture books, in order to critically evaluate the potential benefits and limitations of this type of programme for supporting children's literacy development. This study employs social semiotic theory to analyse a range of data that includes picture books, television programmes, and video-recorded parent-child shared readings in the home, or in similar home-like settings. This theoretical orientation provides tools that support a theoretically-grounded, context-sensitive and systematic analysis of semiotic modes such as language, image, animation, and gesture, and their interaction in shared reading as a social practice, which includes elements such as the reader, the child listener, the book they are reading, and the manner in which they interact. The study explores the resemiotisation of print-based picture books and book reading on television programmes from three perspectives. Firstly, it analyses the multimodal transformations in a picture book that take place during one episode of a popular children's television programme, Bookaboo. Secondly, it explores reading aloud on television in terms of its performative features, comparing the manner in which that book is read on Bookaboo and on CBeebies Bedtime Stories, with the manner in which nine mothers and 4-to-5-year-old children read together and discuss the picture book in the home or similarly naturalistic environment. This comparison includes a consideration of the manner in which the textual patterns in the picture book itself play a part in shaping the interactions between the mother-child participants, as they read the print-based picture book together. Thirdly, the study investigates the perspectives of those involved in the production of such programmes, and the views of the nine mothers and young children, who are the potential target audience, on television programmes in which picture books are read to the audience. Cutting across each of these perspectives is a consideration of the implications of the television programmes for children's emergent literacy development, based on what is known from previous research. The findings will provide parents and educators with evidence to evaluate the potential benefits and limitations of such programmes to support children's emerging literacy development.