Children´s understanding of a prosocial literary role model

Submitted by: Ludmila Liptakova
Abstract: The aim of this paper is to present the preliminary empirical results of qualitative research that examines the junior-age-children´s understanding of a prosocial behavior present in fairy tale characters. The reasons for this research were the unsatisfying results in the PIRLS reading literacy measures achieved by Slovak pupils on the one hand, and the underrated position the formative function of literary texts has in Slovak classroom practice on the other hand. Besides other theories the research builds on the premise that literary text has „the potential to encourage prosocial behavior in children, but this aspect has been only minimally explored“ (Aram, Deitcher, Shoshan, & Ziv, 2017, pp. 157–158).
Our research has qualitative, exploratory character; therefore, hypotheses are not formulated. On the contrary, an inductive approach is utilized. The focus is put on three key concepts: prosocial behavior, literary characters, and children´s reading comprehension. The research sample consists of both a set of literary texts (fairy tales) and the groups of pupils (3rd and 4th graders). The research was conducted in four phases: 1) theoretical analysis of prosocial behavior with focus on child´s prosocial development (see Schroeder & Graziano, 2015); 2) content analysis of Slovak fairy tales and the identification of characters with prosocial behavior (see Stanislavová, 2013); 3) designing the literary prosocial role models; 4) examination of children´s fairy tale reading comprehension and their understanding of the prosocial literary role model. In the last research phase the procedure of shared reading was used (see e.g. Tennent, 2015). The empirical data were collected via the research methods of observation, semi-structured interview and content analysis of children´s multimodal text reflection.
Preliminary research findings imply the positive impact of shared reading on children´s successful inference making. Moreover, shared reading of the selected fairy tales seems to promote children´s processing of their individual interpretation of prosocial behavior found in literary characters. The findings may be beneficial for elaborating the shared reading strategies in primary literary education, what would foster the formative function of literary reading.

Aram, D., Deitcher, D. B., Shoshan, T. S., & Ziv, M. (2017). Shared Book Reading Interactions within Families from Low Socioeconomic Backgrounds and Children’s Social Understanding and Prosocial Behavior. Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 16(2), 157–177.
Schroeder, D. A., & Graziano, W. G. (Eds.) (2015). The Oxford Handbook of Prosocial Behavior. New York: Oxford University Press.
Stanislavová, Z. (2013). Éthos a poésis v umeleckej tvorbe. Štúdie o literatúre pre deti a mládež [Ethos and Poesis in Works of Art (Studies on Children’s and Juvenile Literature]. Prešov: Prešovská univerzita v Prešove.
Tennent, W (2015). Understanding reading comprehension. Processes and Practices. London: SAGE.