Picturebooks for Intercultural and Citizenship Education


The picturebook is a form of children’s literature where pictures, words, and design are used to convey meaning. It uses sequential imagery to lead the narrative and meaning emerges from the interplay between the visual and the verbal codes together with the picturebook’s materiality. In a picturebook the illustrations overflow into the peritext (ie the covers, endpapers title page copyright and dedication pages etc), which results in a multi-layered, aesthetic object.

Picturebooks contribute to the development of the whole child in relation to their cognitive, linguistic, socio-cultural and aesthetic development and this has been recognized in the field of English language education where picturebooks have been used as a rich and authentic source of meaningful input for over four decades. Picturebooks can be interpreted on many levels and thus satisfy children of different ages, at different points in their language learning journey.

Picturebooks cover a myriad of themes which can provide a variety of socially, culturally, and historically appropriate material for the classroom and bring the many cultures of the world into our language classrooms through careful mediation and scaffolding to overcome unnoticed cultural nuances by the younger language learner. There are many picturebook titles that show more through the pictures than the words, and as a result leave gaps for personal interpretations. These picturebooks can involve language learners in a critical and questioning approach to learning which contributes to developing a respect for diversity and otherness.

Picturebooks cover challenging topics, such as migration, climate change, chauvinism, bullying, equality and diversity, and it is usually through the pictures that children can access other interpretations of what might usually be taken for granted. By using picturebooks learners are being given the tools to begin challenging social constructs.

The Picturebooks for Intercultural and Citizenship Education (PICE) Database has been created with a view to sharing information about picturebooks that might afford opportunities for teachers to plan for and develop activities that promote the inclusion of intercultural and citizenship education in their English as a foreign language class. The target age group is 5 to 12 years old, but there are some examples of picturebooks for school learners in secondary education.

This database is the responsibility of Dr Sandie Mourão (Research Fellow, CETAPS) and is part of the FCT financed project, ‘An investigation into developing the intercultural domain in primary English education in Portugal: Picturebooks to support education for peace, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity’ (Project nº CEECIND/01822/2017). Sandie is the coordinator of the ERASMUS+ funded project Intercultural Citizenship Education through Picturebooks in early English Language Learning (ICEPELL), the aim of which is to support practitioners to confidently integrate Intercultural Citizenship Education into English as a foreign language lessons and library sessions with children aged 5 to 12 years using picturebooks (September 2019 to August 2022). Many of the picturebooks on this database are part of the ICEPELL project. For more information about ICEPELL, see the project website.


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