In the Article “Comprehension Strategies for Reading Historical Fiction Picturebooks” by Suzette Youngs and Frank Serafini in The Reading Teacher, October 2011 the authors offer suggestions for moving readers from the literal details to the interpretive assertions. Yesterdays post focused on the considerations for using historical fiction picture books.
I think consideration must be given to teaching the teacher before teaching students from the transition from literal to interpretive assertions. To a certain degree the teacher must own the content or have a clear understanding of the content before moving further. With inquiring minds of all ages (teacher included) we hope the multimodal text will plant a seed in the learners head to inquire further. At the completion of the reading- pre, during, and post- I would hope the book would help the reader form an emotional attachment with the book. The article by Youngs and Serafini offers three strategies:
Phase I: Previewing, Noticing, and Naming
As readers approach a picturebook, we encourage them to focus on these elements or thoughts>
- What visual and design features do you notice?
- How do the visual, textual, and design modes relate to one another?
- What did the illustrator, author, and publisher include in the peritext?
- What type of historical fiction might this be?
- Focus attention to Historical fiction as a Genre. Are they aware of different examples of historical fiction? I suggest keeping a chart somewhere in your room of different historical fiction books you have read and be able to talk about what they notice in the differences.
- o fictionalized memoirs
- o fictionalized family histories and stories
- o fiction based on research
- Essential Questions to Ask When Reading Historical Fiction
- · Is this true? How much is this true?
- · How can we distinguish between fact from fiction?
- · How do the authors know?
- · How much of it happened like this?
- · How can the auto rote help to construct meaning?
- · What type of historic fiction is this?
- · How do the illustration and the text work together?
- Attention to Visual and Textual Elements
- · What did you notice about the cover, back cover, title page, end pages.
- · What did you notice visual and design elements of the picturebook”
- · By allowing readers to determine what is important by focusing on what they notice, teachers can shift the focus of the discussion to what matters to their readers. (Youngs, 2011)
- During this first read-aloud, we take note of the balance between narrative and factual elements, how color is used throughout the text to suggest moods and themes, how characters are portrayed in the written text and images, how the story unfolds and how it makes us feel, and other narrative features such as setting, character, plot, and resolution. By focusing readers’ attention on the visual, textual, and design elements of the picturebook, we establish a foundation for readers to move from attending to the visual and verbal features of a picturebook to the interpretation of these elements. (Youngs, 2011)
Phase II: Moving Beyond Noticing to Interpretation
- Read the book a second time!
- Invite readers to consider the meaning potential of various visual and textual elements embedded within the picturebook and how these individual elements contribute to the story as a whole.
- Help the learners pay attention the one telling the story and their perspective.
- Help the learners pay attention to how the image is framed, the setting of the image or illustration. Framing is a way illustrators invite viewers into an image or distance them from what is being presented.
- Character-reader relationship- A technique that illustrators use to develop a relationship between the character and viewer is called demand and offer. When a character in an image or illustration makes direct contact with the viewer, this is called demand and when a character looks at other characters or objects within the image, it is called an offer. (Youngs, 2011, p. 120) Demand offers the reader an interactive role and demands the attention of the reader where as an offer does not bring the reader into a direct relationship with the character. Rather these scenes and actions serve as information for the reader to consider. The author and illustrator works together to create a relationship between the reader and the characters and events in the story. (Youngs, 2011, pp. 120-121) This is an important position to consider in the genre of historical fiction.
Phase III: Moving Beyond Interpretation to Critical Analysis
What happens in the phase depends on the background knowledge readers bring to the text and the intention of the books use in the content area. Let me point out whether one is using historical fiction or another type of fiction the three phases need to be taught along the continuum of early and intermediate literacy stages. The more background knowledge learners have prior to reading the picture book, will help them assume a critical stance. This path must be modeled and taught. The path is a forward movement from early literacy to intermediate literacy and the higher level would be disciplinary literacy. Important considerations include:
- Many historical fiction picture book illustrators draw on cultural, political, and social symbols to make inter-textual connections within the illustrations and to other visual images. (Youngs, 2011)
- Here are some open ended questions that will promote this type of thinking”
- o Whose view of history is being presented in the book?
- o How are historical characters portrayed?
- o What systems of power and social issues are being challenged?
- o Whose view is privileged in the telling of the story?
- o What has been left out of the story?
- o How do the images presented affect the readers’ interpretations?
- Visual Symbol Analysis: “Illustrators of historical fiction picturebooks often embed historical images within their illustrations. Analysis of these images requires readers to construct an image as a historical symbol, to place the image within its original historical context, and to make intertextual connections between the book being read and the embedded image. Anstey and Bull (2006) referred to the use of intertextuality and described it as “the ways one text might draw on or resemble the characteristics of another causing the consumer of the text to make links between them” (p. 30).” (Youngs, 2011, pp. 121-122)
- Placement of Characters within an Illustration- How the character is placed in the illustration carries additional meaning to the whole text. It tells us lots about the characters social standing and power structures with other characters. Characters placed at the top of the image are given higher social status or power compared to those place near the bottom of the pictures. Characters placed side by side might be entering into an adventure (Youngs, 2011, pp. 122-123). Other questions to consider:
- o What might the spatial relationship suggest? (Youngs, 2011, pp. 122-123) How might we interpret the placement of characters or objects on the page and throughout the book? (Youngs, 2011, pp. 122-123) Who or what is privileged in the various images? (Youngs, 2011, pp. 122-123)
- o What systems of power are represented? (Youngs, 2011, pp. 122-123) (We must teach learners to take a critical stance of various images and symbols represented in historical fiction picture books) (Youngs, 2011, p. 122)
These strategies presented by Youngs and Serefini need to be considered as we prepare our learners for the real world. This framework can better prepare teachers for using historical fiction or any fictional picture book in the content curriculum. It serves as a guide, but should help to focus on the teacher how picture book could be possibly used. I think it is important the teacher understand the framework so that parts as necessary can be modeled and taught to all learners.
Piercy, T. a. (2011). Disciplinary Literacyq. Englewood, Colorada: Lead and Learn Press.
Youngs, S. a. (2011). Comprehension Strategies for Reading Historical Fiction Picture Book. The Reading Teacher , 115-124.