Pictures, words and voices: Provoking thinking and inquiry through art rich picture books

Research Team


Funding Source

Chief Investigators:
Marnee Watkins


N/A, Doctoral research


This study examined an emerging phenomenon in children’s literature — the vast, varied and growing sub-genre of picturebooks, linked together fundamentally by their intertextual references to art, artists and artmaking within their narratives (text and visual). These works have been collectively termed art rich picturebooks for  this study. The aim of this project was twofold: to investigate the collected  works of art rich picturebooks and to use this investigation as a foundation to a narrative inquiry and self-study into their pedagogical possibilities.

It  became increasingly evident that while these picturebooks present with multiple entry points for thinking and inquiry through art, integral to activating their  potential, is the flexibility and artistry a teacher brings to translating the curriculum into lived practice. The artistry allows the teacher to seek creative and art rich ways into the books, and the flexibility lets them invite in the children’s thinking, wonderings and imaginings. Aoki (in Pinar and  Irwin, 2005) talks of the teacher seeking the spaces ‘between’ and among’ in their teaching, and that these interspaces are ‘the voice of play in the midst of things’ (282). This study has worked towards finding these interspaces of possibility through teaching with  art rich picturebooks.


The research design encompassed an intrinsic case study model containing within it two loosely bounded systems under investigation: the range of books categorised through predetermined criteria as art rich picturebooks, and a small selection of primary school teachers using these books in their teaching. Data was collected from individual interviews, observation and  document analysis.


Doctoral research


Watkins, M. (2005). Magical encounters with 'art rich' picturebooks. ARTicle. The Journal of Art Education Victoria, Summer 2005, 7(3).

Watkins, M. (2010). Learning to use another pair of eyes: The story of a doctoral journey investigating art rich picturebooks. In D. Forrest and E. Grierson [Eds.] (2010). The Doctoral Journey in Art Education: Reflections on Doctoral Studies by Australian and New Zealand Art Educators, pp. 268-281, North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing.


Views, Values, Visions The 2010 InSEA South East Asia-Pacific Regional Congress.
Presentation title: 'When a book swings open...' - Art rich picture books providing entry-points for art in the classroom

AEV Annual Conference, 2008. Art + Creativity = Life.
Presentation title: A feast of art rich picture books and their potential as classroom resources for thinking and inquiring.