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Literary, Visual, and Historical Understandings: Intermediate Readers Respond to Historical Fiction Picture Books
AuthorYoungs, Suzette Marie
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The two manuscripts included in this dissertation address intermediate students' responses to historical fiction picture books. The first article Multimodal Discussions: Intermediate Readers Respond to Historical Fiction Picture books was written for the research community. In this article I discuss how intermediate readers responded to historical fiction picture books, address the research study, and outline the formative experiment design used to frame the study. Through data analysis I constructed five conceptual categories to describe student responses to the picture books. They were: 1) narrative; 2) connections; 3) historical; 4) symbolism; and 5) peritextual. From these categories, I looked more closely at how students were interpreting these picture books. Further analysis revealed that 65% of student responses were interpretive, meaning they inferred and went beyond literal description of the image or text. From that data, I looked more closely at the types of interpretations students were making and constructed seven degrees of interpretation to define what I meant by sophisticated responses and to show the different degrees of interpretation students exhibited. The seven degrees were: 1) noticing; 2) literal naming; 3) interpretive naming; 4) micro intratextual; 5) micro intertextual; 6) macro intratextual; and 7) macro intertextual. These degrees helped to show the variations among the responses intermediate readers constructed during their transactions with historical fiction picture books. I found that students spent a great deal of time looking at and interpreting images within a page spread in order to make interpretations about the book as a whole. Through the unit of study and my explicit demonstrations, students learned how to read visual images and peritextual features (all the parts that are not part of the story). Since 17 % of the data were coded as peritextual responses, I wanted to describe the importance of this aspect for the teacher community. Therefore, the second article included in this manuscript is titled: Reading Peritext: Multimodal Discussions With Historical Fiction Picture Books. In this article I described for teachers how students made sophisticated responses to the peritextual features and drew from those responses coded as peritextual. The analysis revealed four categories surrounding attention to the peritextual features in historical fiction picture books. Reading and analyzing the peritext helped readers: 1) set expectations for reading; 2) understand historical background information; 3) understand plot and character; and 4) consider the peritext as a resource to refer to throughout their reading to confirm and negate tentative interpretations. In this article, I also provided essential lesson components, description of peritextual features, and suggestions for teachers to begin a unit of study with their students. I hoped for teachers to see the power of reading the peritextual features and how attention to each opened pathways for more sophisticated responses to literature. Together both articles serve as an overview of students' ability to read and respond to the multimodal nature of historical fiction picture books.