Picturebook(s) in secondary literary education: Students negotiating undecidabilities

Activity: Talk or presentationConference presentation


Contemporary picturebooks contain complex themes and sophisticated literary qualities, features described, for instance, as undecidabilities (Johansen & Henkel, 2012; Johansen, 2019). Previous research on picturebooks in educational settings has mainly focused on young children. However, picturebooks are nowadays viewed as a medium not only for the youngest readers, but for readers of all ages. Consequently, this study explored the interpretive work with a picturebook together with a group of lower secondary students (age 13–14). The aim was to explore how eighth-grade students negotiate with undecidabilities in a picturebook. Using a thinking with theory approach (Jackson & Mazzei, 2012), we plugged in the theoretical concepts of undecidability (Johansen, 2019) and negotiation (Derrida, 2002). For analysis, we used video recordings of group discussions of a group of four students in eighth grade and their work with the picturebook Hemma hos Harald Henriksson [Visiting Harald Henriksson] by Uje Brandelius and Clara Dackenberg (2018). The findings show how the students encounter undecidable features, mainly concerning social and political issues. Without any particular instruction, the students acknowledged the complex interplay between the visual and the verbal. Still, the undecidabilities lied mainly in the visuals. These undecidabilities invited the students to negotiate different interpretive possibilities with the picturebook and each other. The study emphasises the potentials of picturebooks in secondary literary education as well as the value of allowing space for undecidabilities and negotiations in the literature classroom.
Period15 Jun 2022
Event titleThe 13th Conference of International Association for Research in L1 Education
Event typeConference
Conference number13
LocationNicosia, CyprusShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • literary education
  • picturebook
  • undecidability
  • negotiation