• University of York

Pictures of Youth: An Introduction to Children’s Visual Culture

Explore visual culture for children and young people including, picturebooks, comics, film, television and drama

16,325 enrolled on this course

Pictures of Youth: An Introduction to Children’s Visual Culture

16,325 enrolled on this course

  • 4 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

Explore contemporary visual children's culture with leading experts in the field

In a world where young people are surrounded by an ever increasing range of media, visual analysis of children’s culture is becoming increasingly important.

The course provides an introduction to popular types of visual culture for children and young people. By the end you will gain a deeper understanding of children’s film, television, drama, picturebooks and comics.

You will discover the wide variety of works on offer, learn to decipher these media, understand some of the ways in which they are conceived and consumed, and have a go at creating your own analysis.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds We often hear that we live in a visual world – a world of images, composed to shock us or please us, influence us or appease us. Composed just as carefully as verbal texts can be, we sometimes think that we process those images naturally. But that’s not true. It’s a skill, and we hone it through regular exposure – to things like pictures in picturebooks, pictures in cartoons on TV, adverts in the street. Even small children know that many images around them make sense – they tell stories. And they get pretty good, pretty fast, at deciphering those stories. We tend to call such children pre-literate. The truth is, they are literate already – they have some visual literacy.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds Adults are often surprised at how good children are at noticing details in pictures. Well, of course! pictures are a crucial form of communication for them to understand the world. And that communication is far from simple. It has its grammar, its conventions, its clichés, its trendsetters and its transgressors. Including when it’s targeted at children. Especially when it’s targeted at children. This course is in part about celebrating the sophistication of that visual language, and the achievement of children who manage to interpret that language. In this four-week course, you’ll learn about different kinds of visual culture for children – picturebooks, comics, film and television. We’ll explore those media, learn to decode them and understand them better, while preserving, hopefully, a sense of wonder.

Skip to 1 minute and 40 seconds Join us, eyes wide open, for our course on visual culture for children at the University of York.


  • Week 1


    • Introduction

      Welcome to the course - time for some introductions to the course and each other before we start learning

    • What is a picturebook?


    • Word and picture relationships

      We now look more closely at the ways in which text and images interact in the creation and reading experience of a picturebook.

    • Picturebooks and literacy

      How picturebooks contribute to children's visual and verbal literacy

  • Week 2


    • Introduction

      What are comics anyway?

    • Comics literacy

      How do we read comics?

    • Comics for children and ideology

      There's been much moral panic surrounding comics. Let's have a look at what scholars have said about ideology in comic books.

    • Comics culture and children today

      Children and young people are huge consumers of comics in many forms. In this final part we learn about contemporary forms of comics literacy and production.

  • Week 3


    • Defining ‘children’s film’

      In this activity, we try out ways to decide what counts, and what does not count, as 'children's film'.

    • Picturing youth with Studio Ghibli

      In this activity, we get acquainted with the films of Japan's Studio Ghibli, beloved of children and adults worldwide.

    • Analysing Ghibli’s pictures of youth

      In this activity, we pay close detail to the features of Studio Ghibli's films which might make them fit the category of 'children's film'.

    • Studio Ghibli in society and culture

      What can Studio Ghibli's place in society and culture internationally tell us about how it fits into the category of 'children's film'?

  • Week 4


    • Television as sugar-coated education

      In this activity, we consider the way in which showing teaching and learning activities on television allows broadcasters to meet their remit for education as well as entertainment.

    • Reality television and schoolchildren

      This activity considers schoolchildren and their incorporation within programmes in the genre of 'reality television' as a particular focus of televised teaching and learning.

    • Three examples of children's Shakespearean reality television

      In this activity, we explore in detail several reality television programmes starring children learning and staging Shakespeare.

    • Analysing children's Shakespearean reality television

      Here we discuss some features that might allow us to define these programmes as part of a reality television genre that purports to offer participants a 'make-over' of their Shakespearean knowledge and ability.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Evaluate how images can be explored critically, drawing from visual analysis and childhood studies
  • Interpret visual-verbal interplay in picturebooks
  • Explain the imaginative work required by young readers/viewers to construct meaning
  • Discuss the traditions of children's visual culture and the plurality of ways in which childhood can be or has been represented
  • Reflect on the place of images throughout a child’s development

Who is the course for?

With a focus on visual analysis, new media and popular culture for children, this course is ideal for anyone with an interest in contemporary educational and cultural topics, parents and those feeling nostalgia for the texts and media of their own youth.

Who will you learn with?

I am a Lecturer in English in Education at the University of York. One of my main areas of study is children's literature, which I also read avidly, and, on the other side of my life, write, too.

I am a Senior Lecturer in English in Education, University of York & a Visiting Lecturer on the MA Shakespeare & Education, Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham. I like popular culture too!

BA English in Education graduate
MA Social Justice & Education graduate
Full Time PhD Education: Start date Jan 2019
(All University of York)

Who developed the course?

University of York

The University of York combines the pursuit of academic excellence with a culture of inclusion, which encourages everyone – from a variety of backgrounds – to achieve their best.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save


Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Tests to boost your learning
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 16 May 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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