Peritext in asynchronous read-alouds: the missed overture

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


“… skipping the cover and the title page is like arriving at the opera after the overture”
(Moebius, 1986: 152)

Design brings an aesthetic coherence to a picturebook with each of its parts functioning as a “sign”, with potential to contribute to the picturebook’s overall narrative meaning (Sipe, 2002: 24). This results in picturebook illustrations overflowing into its peritextul parts so that the covers, endpapers, and title page, as well as any additional front matter are as important as the overture is to an opera (Moebius, 1986). A picturebook thus relies more on these visual elements and its materiality rather more than most books, and it is considered good practice to show these parts and refer to them during a read-aloud to support children’s meaning making and active discovery (Lambert, 2015; Sipe, 2008).

During the COVID19 pandemic, authors, publishers, teachers and librarians alike began recording picturebook read-alouds and placing these online to ensure that children were given continued opportunities to engage with quality literature (cf Emily Gravett, Puffin Storytime series; Book Trust, CLPE). This presentation shares a small piece of research that investigates the reference to and talk around picturebook peritext during these asynchronous read-alouds. Analyzing a corpus of 60 asynchronous read-alouds, we aimed to answer the following questions: To what extent do the readers refer to peritextual features? Which are referred to most often? How do the readers talk about peritext? And, do the readers make overt connections between the peritext and the rest of the picturebook? Results showed that picturebook peritext was usually ignored, and rarely referred to using the appropriate metalanguage. In addition, connections between the peritext and the different parts of the picturebook were infrequent. We close our presentation with possible reasons for these oversights.
Period24 Jun 202126 Jun 2021
Event titlePicturebooks and graphic narratives in education and translation: : Mediation and multimodality
Event typeConference
Conference number2
LocationLisbon, PortugalShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Picturebooks
  • peritext
  • online read-alouds