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Emotional development of preschool children benefits from discussions about picture books

01 November 2011

Pre-schoolers become more aware of complex emotions like shyness and jealousy if teachers read with them rather than to them when reading picture books aloud. This has been revealed by research by Aletta Kwant, who will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 10 November 2011. Kwant developed a specific reading-aloud programme and investigated which picture books were most suitable for the social-emotional development of preschoolers.  

It has long been known that picture books have a positive effect on the language development of preschoolers. Aletta Kwant has now demonstrated that this also applies to the social-emotional development of young children. The precondition is that teachers should use the right picture books and be able to conduct a conversation about them with the preschoolers at their level.  

Teachers as fellow readers

The usual ‘strategy of inducement’ where the teacher asks questions during reading-aloud sessions does not always lead to the right interaction between the teacher and the children, according to Kwant. ‘If the teacher reacts as a reader to the text, then he or she becomes a fellow reader alongside the children, which results in a more balanced discussion,’ she explains. Her research has led to what are known as ‘keys’ for a set of selected books, which teachers can work with. Kwant: ‘The teacher’s reactions as a reader then form the first step towards a discussion. Discussion-stimulating tips like follow-up questions then help the teacher to get into a discussion with the children.’ 

Specific set of books

For the research, a panel of experts first developed criteria for selecting picture books. Kwant then analysed the content of the books. ‘The basic emotions of fear, happiness, anger and sadness turned out to be well represented’ she says. ‘In addition, there were also more complex emotions such as shyness, jealousy and guilt.’ Kwant then used the results of the analysis to develop a reading-aloud programme with specific tips for teachers on how to read aloud and start discussions. 

Difference with complex emotions

The new reading-aloud programme turned out to help children identify complex emotions in particular. Although there was also a difference with the basic emotions between the two groups investigated, this was not significant. Kwant investigated the effects of the developed reading-aloud programme on 20 preschool groups at 19 different primary schools. Half of the groups followed the regular programme, the other half worked with the special reading-aloud programme. 

Curriculum Vitae

Aletta Kwant (Coevorden, 1961) studied educational sciences and Dutch. She will be awarded a PhD by the Faculty of Arts of the University of Groningen on 10 November 2011. The title of her thesis is ‘Geraakt door prentenboeken. Effecten van het gebruik van prentenboeken op de sociaal-emotionele ontwikkeling van kleuters’ [Touched by picture books. The effects of using picture books on the social-emotional development of preschoolers]. Her supervisors were Prof. C.M. de Glopper and Dr J. Berenst.

The research was funded by the Dutch Programme Council for Educational Research, part of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). 

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Aletta Kwant,
Last modified:15 September 2017 3.30 p.m.
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