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Improving children’s wellbeing with picture fiction

Father and daughter reading a book

A project, funded by The Open University (OU), is developing resources for teachers and parents to help them support children’s wellbeing.

The project, titled ‘Overcoming Adversity through Hope: Developing dialogue through picture fiction in homes and schools’, received funding to enable parents and practitioners to support children to come to terms with and understand social and emotional challenges.

Project leads Prof Teresa Cremin, Professor of Education (Literacy) at The Open University in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) and Dr Sarah Mukherjee, Research Associate at the OU, will present their project at the OU COVID-19 Research: Online Learning and Education Seminar on 27 May 2021.

Reflecting on the motivations of the research, Prof Teresa Cremin stated:

"Discussing social and emotional difficulties is not straightforward. But quality picture fiction texts can foster conversations in which children’s voices, interests and concerns lead the way, enabling to handle uncertainty and overcome adversity.”

From a list of 150+ recent picture fiction books that cover themes such as bereavement, anxiety, illness and reflect multiple diversities (e.g. colourism, diverse cultures, sexuality), 30 books were selected. Multimodal analysis undertaken by the OU Team has shown the complex ways that words and images combine to shape meanings allowing readers to connect and empathise with characters and storylines.

A Practitioner Framework to support insights into the subtle meanings in picture fiction is being developed, affording greater confidence in choosing and using such texts in different circumstances. Additionally, resources are being created to encourage in-depth dialogue around diverse and sensitive topics.

Adding further, Dr Sarah Jane Mukherjee stated:

"This work responds to widespread concern that children’s emotional wellbeing continues to be adversely affected due to the ongoing pandemic and seeks to help children handle life’s challenges."

The project is part of the OU Reading for Pleasure Team’s supportive response to home-schooling in the context of COVID-19 and is situated within the Centre for Literacy and Social Justice and the wider OU’s social justice mission.

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