Original Research

Exploring a contemporary picturebook with young readers in the foundation phase

Makeeda N. Phekani
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 13, No 1 | a1290 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v13i1.1290 | © 2023 Makeeda N. Phekanii | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 November 2022 | Published: 31 August 2023

About the author(s)

Makeeda N. Phekani, Department of Childhood Education, Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Background: Given the ongoing literacy crisis in South Africa, there is a need for teachers, as well as teacher education programmes, to explore various means to enable learners to develop reading comprehension. This study sought to examine the intricacies of a series of small group literacy activities that hinged on the in-depth and repeated engagement with a contemporary picturebook. Furthermore, it aims to evaluate whether children can develop an affinity for these books.

Aim: The aim of the study was to explore the ways young readers engage with a contemporary picturebook by way of their oral and painted responses.

Setting: The study was a qualitative case study, which took place at an urban public school in the Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg.

Methods: The research design followed that of a case study. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews during two paired readings, as well as a focus group discussion (FGD). Additional data were collected through children’s painted artefacts and their subsequent individual interviews on these paintings.

Results: The findings indicate that learners initially had superficial verbal engagements with the picturebook, which was complemented by more creative responses on further readings. Another finding was that the facilitation by the researcher and the interaction with peers improved the learners’ depth of engagement. Lastly, the learners’ initial basic descriptions of what was visible was complemented by a more nuanced appreciation of the aesthetic features of the picturebook.

Conclusion: Based on the findings, it is concluded that full depth of picturebooks and their affordances in classroom literacy programmes be introduced in detail to pre-service and in-service teachers in order to foster rich and meaningful reading experiences for learners.

Contributions: This research functions to contribute to the limited body of literature surrounding children’s reading experiences of picturebooks and overall learning specifically in South Africa.


Picturebook; children’s literature; literary understanding; literacy; foundation phase; South Africa


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