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On the Border between Implication and Actuality: Children Inside and Outside of Picture Books

Perry Nodelman

While the current hegemony of studies in literary education requires a commitment to the idea that individuals all respond to texts differently, a large body of research devoted to descriptions of the experiences of specific children with texts has the presumed purpose of increasing our understanding of literary response more generally. This essay explores the contradictions inherent in work committed to the uniqueness of individual response that nevertheless often seem to present its subjects as examples of more general truths about children's engagement with literature. After an analysis of the generalisations stated or implied in a number of reports of work with children and texts, I consider what it might or might not be safe to conclude from such work, and how the work might most become useful.

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