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Recursive readings and reckonings: kindergarteners’ multimodal transactions with a nonfiction picturebook

Courtney Shimek (Department of Curriculum and Instruction/Literacy Studies, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 22 February 2021

Issue publication date: 20 July 2021




Our world had always been multimodal, but studying how young children enact and embody literacy practices, especially reading, has often been overlooked. The purpose of this study was to examine how young children respond to nonfiction picturebooks in multimodal ways. This paper aims to answer the question: What multimodal resources do readers use to respond to and construct meaning from nonfiction picturebooks?


Undergirded by Rosenblatt’s transactional theory of reading and social semiotic multimodality, a 9-min video clip of three boys making sense of one nonfiction picturebook during reading workshop was analyzed using Norris’ approach to multimodal data analysis. This research stemmed from a five-month-long case study of one kindergarten class’s multimodal and collective responses to nonfiction picturebooks.


Findings demonstrate how readers use gesture, gaze and proxemics in addition to language to signal agreement with one another, explain new ideas or concepts to one another and incorporate their background knowledge. In addition to reading images, the children learned to read each other.


This research indicates that reading is inherently multimodal, recursive and complex and provides implications for teachers to reconsider what kinds of responses they prioritize in their classrooms. Additionally, this research establishes the need to better understand how readers respond to nonfiction books and a broader examination of multimodality in the literacy curriculum.



The author would like to thank Dr. Jennifer Graff for her support and advice on this project. This research was partially funded by the Graduate School at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, USA.


Shimek, C. (2021), "Recursive readings and reckonings: kindergarteners’ multimodal transactions with a nonfiction picturebook", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 149-162.



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