Ioanna Kaliakatsou, The challenging reading of pictures in Saramago's picturebooks, Προσχολική & Σχολική Εκπαίδευση, 4|2016, 68-84

Postmodern picturebooks have gained increasing importance in the field of theory of children’s literature, because they «Provide the most accessible examples of postmodern eclecticism: the breaking of boundaries, the abandonment of linear chronology, the emphasis on the construction of texts, and the intermingling of parodying genres» (Pantaleo and Sipe 2008). Τhese picturebooks invite a more active reader. Mc Callum (1996) notes that metafictive narratives pose «questions about the relationships between the ways we interpret and represent both fiction and reality». Trites ( 1994) also identifies that the changes in picturebooks reflect «the sort of cultural fragmentation that seems to be the hallmark of the postindustrial age» As today's children live in a world characterized by fragmentation, decanonization and interactivity literacy educators focus on the ways in which literacy education will need to change in order to develop student’s «self-knowledge about reading» (Ryan& Anstey, 2003) and enrich reader’s capacity to decode the rapidly change, rich in symbols, visual culture. (Callow, 2008, Goldstone, 2001, Walsh, 2003, Serafini, 2004 O'Neil, 2011 ) Saramago’s picture books are a good example of work that disrupts expectations of the reader through the self-reflexive narrative structure of the visual text. While the verbal text tells rather a simple fairly story, the visual language in pictures evoke multiple levels of meaning, depending on how the reader (children or adult) chooses to interpret it. One common aspect of the illustrations in both books is the self referential qualities of the illustrations that reveal the process of memories restoration and perception. The illustrators of the books employ a range of metafictive devices that self consciously draws attention to the status of the memories as artifacts and systematically poses questions about the way we recall the past. In this paper we examine fifth graders’ responses to several metafictive devices in Saramago’s picturebooks. The books were read and discussed in depth over a two week time period, where the children participated in small groups and whole-class interactive read-aloud sessions. The fifth graders noticed many of the visual elements and took them into account for the (re)construction of the story, such as intertextuality, indeterminacy in illustrative text, disruptions of traditional time and space relationships, pastiche of illustrative styles, illustrative framing devices including a book embedded within another book, description of the creating process. The data concerning children’s reading of both books lead to the conclusion that ten-years-old children paid great attention to the illustration and did not confine their readings only to words. They have incorporated the visual text in the construction of the story, and proved that they can decipher many of the challenging visual puzzles of both books. The study concludes that using visual literacy in the classroom can help children to develop a “critical eye” and to negotiate our visually rich contemporary culture. Key-words: picturebooks, metafiction, childrens’ perception, memories

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