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Reading illustrated novels: exploring the medium through participatory case study



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Reading illustrated novels: exploring the medium through participatory case study

Jennifer Aggleton

This thesis explores the opportunities that the medium of illustrated novels may provide for readers, through an empirical study of the responses of five children to three illustrated novels. The aim of this research was to create a new model of response to illustrated novels by exploring reading and meaning making processes, as well as the critical, creative, and aesthetic responses of children to illustrated novels. The research takes a sociocultural view of reading, and draws on theories of reader-response and social semiotics, as well as perspectives from research into illustrated novels, picturebooks, and theories of response to art. The research was conducted as a participatory qualitative multiple case study, working with five 9-10-year-old children reading three illustrated novels: The Imaginary by A F Harrold and Emily Gravett, The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett and Jonathan McNaughtt, and Not As We Know It by Tom Avery and Kate Grove. The participants helped to choose the texts, the research methods, and to direct the avenues of exploration. The data collected was analysed using the constant comparative method and content analysis. The model of response developed by this research suggests that illustrated novels, when approached as complete texts in which the writing and illustrations are considered interdependent and equally worthy of attention, have the potential to encourage readers to engage deeply through the creation of moments of pause which can provide space for reflection. The medium also holds the potential to prompt critical and creative responses when the juxtaposition of words and images results in the reader perceiving gaps, uncertainties, disagreements, or dissatisfactions. In addition, illustrated novels can provide aesthetic experiences, and prompt and develop aesthetic judgement. The research concludes that illustrated novels appear to hold enormous potential to prompt readers to engage in a variety of critical and aesthetic ways, and argues for a shift in the way in which this medium is perceived within scholarship and education in order to maximise that potential.





Maine, Fiona


Children's Literature, Education, Illustrated novels, reading, participatory research


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Fully funded by ESRC studentship