Reading With a Crayon: Pre-Conventional Marginalia as Reader Response in Early Childhood

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Child-produced marginalia, annotations written or drawn in the margins of a text by a young reader, have been stigmatized as devaluing the book on which it was created and often dismissed as graffiti Recent historical studies of marginalia created by older children, those who have mastered conventional writing and drawing, have challenged this notion by looking at extratextual annotations as a means to understanding children's diverse uses of books as both intellectual and physical objects. However, pre-conventional scribbles on books by very young children have not been explored as artifacts of emergent literacy practices or reader response. Yet, scholarship in the fields of literacy education, art education, early childhood education and theories of place suggest that children can develop expectations for books in the first few years of life and that their earliest drawing experiences show evidence of intentionality. This reader response study draws from video data of three-year-old Elijah and his eighteen-month-old sister, Hannah, to explore the production, of pre-conventional marginalia in early childhood. The findings of this study suggest that toddlers and preschool-aged children can understand books as distinct and pleasurable artifacts in their immediate environments, that the marks they make in their picturebooks are evidence of reader response, that the act of drawing enables them to engage in a fictional landscape, and that pre-conventional marginalia can provide us with insight into very young children's earliest aesthetic responses to texts.