Soumi Dey

Emerging bilingual children and language acquisition: A cognitive approach to young readers' meaning-making from postmodern picturebooks

  • Picturebooks
  • Pre school, primary and Young Adult education and literature
  • English as an Additional / Foreign Language
  • Bilingual/Multilingualism
  • Metafiction
  • Cognitive literary studies
  • Multicultural studies

Research title

Emerging Bilingual Children and Language Aquisition : A cognitive approach to young readers' meaning-making from postmodern picturebooks.

Research summary

This research project aims to present a longitudinal study of bilingual primary school children reading picturebooks by Emily Gravett from an interdisciplinary cognitive-literary perspective. With the research using books by one author/illustrator, this has the potential to be an important author study of one of the more prominent and acclaimed artists in the contemporary picturebook scene.

Contemporary picturebooks with their postmodern interplay of words and images have been used in classrooms as a creative resource enhancing language acquisition and cultural awareness (Arizpe, Colomer & Martinez-Roldan, 2014). This study uses culturally relevant pedagogic methods to examine immigrant children’s response (verbal, visual, gestural and spatial) to selected picturebooks.

The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence emphasises the need for children to communicate effectively within a multicultural society through competence in English, and Listening & Talking skills (comprehension of ‘pace, gesture, emphasis and tone’) (Education Scotland). With immigration on the rise, there is increasing need to find innovative EAL provision to cater to diverse learners.

The participants demonstrated that they could ‘read’ the fictional picturebook characters’ feelings through the words, facial expressions, postures and colours. The study shows that picturebooks can act as ‘training fields’ (Nikolajeva, 2014) for developing participants’ English, Theory of Mind (considering thoughts and feelings of others) and emotional literacy. Appreciating characters in picturebooks can help facilitate better understanding of real people, improving the empathy levels in readers. Children, especially those who are acclimatizing to a new language and culture, might therefore be able to transfer these skills to their real social interactions. Furthermore, this study impacts outcomes in other curriculum areas including modern languages and citizenship through developing ‘critical literacy’ skills in children, seeking ‘multiple perspectives’ (McLaughlin & DeVoogd, 2004) and dealing with difference of race, culture, class, gender in fellow classmates and in the wider society.


GTA role: Sociology of Education. January, 2016

Seminar tutor for Fundamentals of Education 1B (3 groups)

Several EAL tutor roles in Schools, Colleges of Higher Education and Summer Schools in Scotland, England & India (2004 – 2014)

Corporate trainer, full time role for 4 years in India (2005 – 2008)

Additional information


Soumi comes from a background in English Literature, having completed her MA in English and MPhil from the University of Hyderabad, India. She subsequently worked as a corporate trainer and EFL teacher in India and the UK.

Having always taken a special interest in Children’s Literature, Soumi is pursuing her research in picturebook studies at the University of Glasgow. She is multilingual (speaks five Indian languages) and is interested in early years bi/multilingual immigrant learners and their processes of meaning-making and engaging with a variety of texts.


Bursary: Winner of the IBBY UK’s Bursary to participate in the IBBY Congress, Auckland, 2016


Member of International Board of Books for Young people (IBBY), UK

Member of the Children’s Literature Association, USA.

TESOL Qualification:

Certificate in English Language Teaching to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) by Cambridge English Teaching Assessments

Project Management Qualification:

Level 3 Award in Project Management QCF by Chartered Management Institute