The response of Canadian and Chinese teachers and university instructors to picture books: a case study rooted in content analysis of Canadian and Chinese award winning pictures


  • Jing Jin University of Saskatchewan



The purpose of this study was to explore the similarities and differences emerging from a set of Canadian and Chinese award-winning picture books published between 2004 and 2014. The three key research questions are as follows:

  1. What similarities and differences emerge in a comparison of Canadian and Chinese award-winning picture books from 2004 to 2014?
  2. What similarities and differences appear in the responses of four K-12 teachers and four post-secondary instructors in Canadian and Chinese contexts related to children’s picture books?
  3. How do the responses of these eight participants in terms of the potential patterns and use of picture books compare and contrast to my investigation related to Canadian and Chinese award-winning picture books from 2004 to 2014?
Context/Theoretical Framework

This qualitative case study explored through a social constructivist framework the similarities and differences emerging from a set of Canadian and Chinese award-winning picture books. In addition to the application of Radical Change characteristics to the picture book set, using Dresang’s (1999) construct of the evolution of children’s literature, responses of eight participants in Canadian and Chinese academic and teaching contexts were also explored through semi-structured interviews related to conceptualizations and use of children’s picture books.Child-image and theme were investigated through content analysis. This study has employed the embedded multiple-case design identified by Yin (2009). In this design context, my response to the study set of Canadian and Chinese award-winning picture books is a sub-unit, and can provide ample feelings and opinions related to child-image and theme in addition to other categories emerging from the content analysis. Interviewing the eight participants selected for this research can be seen as another sub-unit, and offered them a chance to articulate their understanding of picture books and how they evaluate and use picture books in daily work, providing the subjectivity often lacking in other methods of picture book examination.

Brief Review of the Major Literature

To narrow the focus from previous research and highlight the comparative features of this study, my literature review addresses the studies which reflect child-image and theme related to national characteristics. Picturing Canada: A History of Canadian Children’s Illustrated Books and Publishing (2010) by Edwards and Saltman, Introducing Children’s Literature: From Romanticism to Postmodernism (2002) by Thacker and Webb, Cai’s (1994) and Chen and Wang’s (2014) research on images of China and Chinese, as well as Tan’s (2011, 2014) and Zhu’s (2000, 2008, 2014) studies about Chinese indigenous picture books are the primary sources of my literature review on this topic.

Major Conclusions

 Child who encounters difficulties was a type of child-image frequently represented in both Canadian and Chinese award-winning titles, a finding that may reflect how children are often viewed as having ability, subjectively in charge of their own lives. Child-as-problem solver and playing/imaginative child appeared more often in the Canadian titles, demonstrating potentially valued national characteristics in terms of resiliency as well as a possible trend in recent creations of Canadian picture books. In contrast, the Chinese titles more frequently included child-as-narrator and moral/life model, through which was reflected the concept of edutainment, and the artistic tendency of Chinese style and nostalgia.

With regards to the themes appearing in the study set of books, the biggest difference was the theme of imagination/fantasy. Moral/life lessons was the theme frequently represented in both the selected Canadian and Chinese books. The other five themes had a similar amount of representation.

In terms of Radical Change (Dresang, 1999), from an overall perspective, changing forms and formats was the most significant Radical Change characteristic represented in the selected Canadian and Chinese titles. Changing perspectives and changing boundaries was reflected infrequently in the selected titles. There were no new categories related to Radical Change appearing in this examination of the study set.

Through the analysis of interview data, books as teaching tools emerged as the most important purpose of using picture books, implying that a moralistic/instructional function of picture books was still emphasized in both Canadian and Chinese contexts. Books as cultural artifacts appeared as another significant purpose for using picture books in the Canadian context, whereas it was less emphasized in the Chinese context.

In terms of the participants’ opinions about patterns and trends related to child-image and theme in picture books, the similarities involve children encountering difficulties and compliant children, while children with authentic characterization, children as problem-solvers, and white middle-class children were the particular child-images represented in Canadian titles and moral/life models was the most common child-image in Chinese picture books. The Canadian participants offered a variety of themes often represented in Canadian picture books, whereas the Chinese participants all considered moral/life lessons as the most common theme in current Chinese picture books.

Interestingly, the Canadian and the Chinese participants had similar views with regards to recommended considerations in child-image, however they had quite different opinions related to theme, and differences appeared between the thoughts of Chinese children’s literature specialists and classroom teachers.

There are both similarities and differences between the responses of the participants and my exploration of the books themselves. There appears to be a considerable amount of imagination/fantasy or children with authentic characterization/special needs in the selected books, yet the participants believed there was a dearth of this particular theme or child-image in currently available titles.

Statement of Significance

Either the using of picture books or the selection of award-winning picture books links with their specific historical, social and cultural traditions. Adults consciously or unconsciously inherit culture and transmit this culture to children through the creation and sharing of picture books. What emerged from this study was not only the range of child-images, themes, and responses related to the study set of Canadian and Chinese award-winning picture books, but more importantly, the various views on children, cultural identities, and related educational implications. “Only by making international/global studies an integral part of thecurriculum can schools hope tomeet today’s challenge ofpreparing students for effective citizenship in an economically integrated, but politically divided world” (Becker, 2002, p. 56).


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