Understanding how to read children’s literature is as important as knowing what to read. Reading critically demands that we take notice of how illustrations tell stories and how these images are in dialogue with the words in the text. We give the book a first reading by considering what is going on in the pictures, making meaning through initial interpretations. After these preliminary readings, we can turn our attention to deeper reading within as well as beyond the text, exploring connections to the social and historical contexts of the text.
In the next pages, we introduce three key components of critical multicultural analysis of children’s picture books:
- Reading the book’s construction and images
- Deeper reading within the text and alongside other texts
- Reading beyond the text and taking stock of its context
For each component, you’ll see an example of questions and answers in a critical reading of The Ugly Vegetables, by Grace Lin (1999) followed by a page with a comprehensive list of questions to consider within that area of analysis. Following this, we briefly discuss the sources of this approach to how to read and provide a list of resources.
While the analysis practices appear here as linear lists, the layers and questions represent many ways to enter and engage with texts. Where we begin reading is largely shaped by the experiences we bring to the text. Leafing through the pages allows us to locate those places of entry. We invite you to reflect and expand on the critical questions and practices in ways that inform your teaching.