Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Learning

First Committee Member

Chyllis Scott

Second Committee Member

Kenneth Varner

Third Committee Member

Katrina Liu

Fourth Committee Member

Richard Miller

Number of Pages



The world is quickly evolving and young children interact with technology more often and may have more interactions with technology than print materials. Incorporating wordless picturebooks into literacy instruction, specifically complex books that include multiple storylines, unconventional structures, figurative visual language, etc., provides a perfect medium for teachers to address the demands of this increasingly multimodal world and also the Common Core State Standards. This dissertation is a qualitative case study (Yin, 2017) that aimed to investigate how young children aged 3 to 6 made meaning of complex wordless picturebooks. This dissertation attempted to answer the following four research questions: (1) How do young children make meaning of complex wordless picturebooks?; (2) What strategies do young children use to make meaning of complex wordless picturebooks?; (3) What reader self-positions do young children take up when they make meaning of complex wordless picturebooks.The case study methodology guided the development of research designs and research procedures. Via online conferencing tools, data were collected from seven young children’s readings of five complex WPBs at different complexity levels. Three participants were from the U.S. and four were from China. Data analysis were informed by reader responses theories and the Social Semiotics Theory of reading. Three themes emerged from the analysis of the study: (1) Visual Reading Process: Unconventional Reading Path and Visual Language Development; (2) The Context: Interpretive Community and Story Rituals and Language; and (3) The Reader: Developing Reader Self-Positions and Emerging Language Development. This study’s findings have similar implications for theory and practices. First, this study calls for researchers and teachers to keep up with the demands of new technological developments to consider how new technology has turned over its traditional literacy pedagogy to our next generations. This study also calls for teachers to use newer pedagogical approaches that target multimodal literacies when considering their visual literacy instructions. Specifically, this study calls for teachers to consider visual languages different from written language and to apply appropriate visual literacy instructions to enhance children’s visual language knowledge such as visual grammar and reading path. This study also implores teachers to consider using more complex reading materials that are likely to reflect and mimic the multimodal challenges on children and to facilitate children’s multiliteracies development in the age of screen.


Complex; Meaning Making; Visual Literacy; Visual Reading Process; Wordless Picturebooks; Young Children


Education | Liberal Studies | Pre-Elementary, Early Childhood, Kindergarten Teacher Education

File Format


File Size

6900 KB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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Available for download on Friday, May 15, 2026