Speaking for the Trees: Critical Analyses Concerning Young Readers’ Responses to the Representation of Environmental Issues in Picturebooks.

Buckingham, Ross 

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By conducting both qualitative empirical studies and detailed literary analyses, I investigate the ways in which selected picturebooks can persuasively model ecologically attuned attitudes and practices to young readers. I also analyse how these texts can open up spaces for young readers to reinforce, challenge and augment their own ideas in relation to the natural world, as well as associated environmental issues. To achieve these research aims, I consider the distinctive qualities of four selected picturebooks and the modes of engagement these texts can potentially afford young readers. The four selected picturebooks are Seeds of Change by Sonia Sadler, The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry, Just a Dream by Chris van Allsburg and Tidy by Emily Gravett. After exploring the quality of thought and the responses that selected texts engender in research participants, I analyse the meaning that these young readers derive from the synergetic relationship between the visual and the verbal in picturebooks and how this particular genre can engage and affect children’s attitudes towards the natural world. The findings of this research suggest that the distinctive modes of engagement that can be afforded by picturebooks have the potential to productively engage young readers, both emotionally and cognitively, with representations of the natural world and associated ecological concerns. The findings of this research also indicate that the selected picturebooks, to various degrees, afford young readers opportunities to reflect upon, affirm and extend their own notions of nature – in negotiation with the views of their peers – and explore dilemmas and contradictions that pertain to environmental issues.

Whitley, David
Education, Ecocriticism, Children's Literature, Environmental Education, Picturebooks
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge