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  • Gemma Elaine

Week 7: Researching the effectiveness of Picture Books

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

The illustration book order has arrived

Firstly, this week I got my order of picture books that focus on birthmarks. I now have four: "Made Marvelous" by Adree Williams and Jamie Cosley, "I am Unique!" by Jennifer Vassel and Penny Weber, "My Spots" by Marina V. and Victoria Usova, and "Sam's Birthmark" by Martha and Grant Griffith and Mary Anne Smiley.

Over the next week, I plan to survey these books and any others I can find to ascertain if there are similar themes and any areas that may be lacking. Some of my research this week has uncovered a framework for which I could survey this small selection of books.



The papers I looked at this week were focused on research into children's books. None of these were in relation to birthmarks but other stigmas where the research could potentially be extrapolated to birthmarks.

This paper mainly focused on what makes a picture book "attractive" - literally what attracts attention. This study seemed to find that parents and children still appreciate the physicality of printed picture books for the following traits: "the ‘physical existence of a book’, ‘genuine sensation of turning pages’, and ‘sense of holding a book’". It also found that the interactivity and multifunctionality of ebooks and pop-up books were also appreciated. Finally, it found that the older the audience the more important a "vivid story" is.

This paper mainly focused on the representation of economic diversity and for the most part wasn't directly transferable to books about birthmarks. However, it did have some discussion about the role of representation in children's books and the use of the books as discussion launchpads for changing discourses around preconceptions. In fact, the following reference in the paper was particularly relevant:

"Students, even young elementary ones (Sipe, 2000), are not passive consumers of texts. Rather, they make sense of the story by connecting to, disconnecting from, and interacting with the narratives presented within texts. Therefore, the dialogic context cultivated around the reading of books is significant. To further their understandings of the world around them, students need opportunities to bring their economic and cultural realities into conversations with characters’ and classmates’ experiences."

Obviously, this paper is looking into respectful representations of disability. This is the paper that I referenced earlier that conducted a survey of children's books. To do this they used the following criteria:

  • The book must be easy to read. We defined this as approximately a third‐grade readability level or easier.

  • The story must not be overly didactic. The character with a disability should be portrayed authentically and not pitied or patronized. A teacher would not be embarrassed to read the book aloud in front of students with the disability being portrayed in the story.

  • The book should offer an interesting and engaging storyline and have characters with depth. The story would be interesting to students with disabilities, and they might be able to identify with the story in meaningful ways.

  • The book should use respectful language and portray the characters with disabilities as rich and complex individuals who are defined by more than their disabilities.

  • The book must be readily available from booksellers or public libraries. We saw no point in identifying good books if readers could not find them.

I feel like this is a fantastic framework for me to look at the existing landscape of birthmark representation in picture books and I'll adapt this method for my research.

This is another quote I found compelling and would like to keep in mind when I produce my book: "characters who had disabilities were written to explain the nature of the disability to typically developing children and often contained patronizing messages about how special children with disabilities were or employed you/them language (e.g., “You should help classmates with Down syndrome because they have learning difficulties”)."

This paper had less relevance to my study. Mainly it concluded that "manipulative" (ie pop-up books) can be distracting to a child's ability to learn and focus' on an age group younger than I'll likely be targeting.

This paper is similar to the one above and even references it. One quote I liked from it is this one:

"The process of keeping real-world knowledge separate from fictional or false information encountered in a story context may be especially difficult in early childhood because children between the ages of 3 and 8 are just beginning to differentiate fantasy and reality (Woolley and Cox, 2007). "

Again, this is likely a younger audience than I'd be targeting.

I found this one very interesting and the study discussed was very promising for using picture books as an intervention for children to accept children that might be different to themselves. The study concluded that using a picture book discussing autism in class was highly successful for increasing students' understanding of autism.

"Results showed that 91.67% of children believed that the TPB about autism indeed improved their understanding and acceptance of children with autism, indicating a good social validity of this study. In addition, this form of teaching was also widely accepted by many children. 83.33% of children in the experimental group expressed their like of the teaching, and 87.89% of children wanted to have more similar teaching activities in the future."


My Projects "Double Diamond"

Below is the overview of my project laid out in a Double Diamond approach. My project needed an extra diamond for the added stage of exploration my project is going through.


What now?

Now that blanket ethics has been approved for my study I need to use the next week to come up with my questionnaire questions and get my survey out into the world ASAP.

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