A picture can indeed paint a thousand words, and combining both the visual and textual can be a window into an exciting and valuable new world for children, especially when more than one language is involved.

Fulbright New Zealand has given Dr Nicola Daly an award which will enable her to build on her work in the area of multilingualism in children’s picturebooks. She is one of three Waikato students and staff given grants by the organization this year. She is travelling to the United States in October to spend her Summer lecturing and researching at the University of Arizona. She will focus on multiple languages in picturebooks, including taking lessons from her research on bilingual books from New Zealand to the US.

Dr Daly will be working closely with Professor Kathy Short. Professor Short is not just an expert in the field of children’s literature, but also a Director of the World of Words Center. Worlds of Words holds an estimated 30,000 volumes of children’s and adolescent literature focusing on world cultures and Indigenous peoples, housed at the University of Arizona College of Education. It is committed to creating an international network of people who share the vision of bringing books and children together, and encouraging young people to develop global understanding through the medium.

The teaching component of the scholarship will see Dr Daly lecturing on the way in which language attitudes are reflected in and perpetuated by bilingual books around the world. Her research with Professor Short will see her look at the responses of children and pre-service teachers to multilingual picturebooks from around the world.

Picturebooks are often the first introduction to literacy that children have, particularly in Western cultures. Dr Daly says sharing a picturebook provides really important engagement between caregivers and children. “And the fact they are a marriage of pictures and text is like a bridge between the parent and the child, but also between visual and textual literacy. The children see what’s going on in the pictures and the more they hear the book being read the more they start to link the pictures to the words. They’re crucial in early literacy development, but also potentially powerful for the adults reading them to children.”

In the School of Education, Dr Daly co-directs the Waikato Picture Book Research Unit with Dr Janette Kelly-Ware. They hold a very popular annual seminar on pictures books, and run a picturebook club during semester in the university’s Teaching Resource Library (open to all staff and students). Dr Daly says there’s a huge amount of scope to develop that work further. “I’m hoping to be inspired about ways we can build on our work here in the Waikato to help the University of Waikato take a  lead in the field of children’s literature.”

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