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Getting the Most Out of Picture Books (page 2)

— Reading Is Fundamental
Updated on Feb 18, 2011

Build Reading Skills

Picture books help young children understand that words convey meaning, well before they are aware of the text. Pictures can help increase vocabulary, an important building block for reading. Books can help young children to identify:

  • Colors, shapes, numbers, and letters.
  • Names of people, places, animals, and everyday objects.

Picture books can also help build background knowledge that is essential to successful reading. A child who has never been to the zoo, a farm, or a beach can still learn all about these places by exploring picture books. Select books with simple or realistic images so that kids can point to objects and learn names. 

Picture books help older kids with comprehension and prompt them to read critically. They can use the pictures to predict what's going to happen next. The images can teach children to watch, look, and listen for clues, warning signs, and exciting things they might otherwise miss. More experienced readers can learn how to cross-reference the text and pictures in order to "read between the lines." Choose books whose illustrations convey meaning not contained in the text, and help older readers play detective by going back and forth between the story and the pictures.

Explore Art When You Read Together

Picture books present a perfect opportunity for adult-child interaction, another critical element in developing a lifelong love of books. Talking about what the child likes or dislikes about illustrations is an easy way to generate conversation around a book and its plot.

Pre-Readers: Choose books that have bold, vivid, and colorful illustrations of everyday objects. 

Art Tip!  Play "What's that?" by pointing to objects on the page and having the child name what they see. Or read the story, stopping periodically to ask the child to find the picture of the object or character you just read about.

Beginning Readers: Choose books with simple storylines and illustrations that closely match what is going on in the story. 

Art Tip!  Help children use pictures to keep track of the story as they go. Suggest that they retell the story as they read it to you. Encourage them to predict what will happen next based on the pictures they are seeing. Help them pay attention to the clues the illustrator left to foreshadow what is coming.

Independent Readers: Choose books where the illustrations tell a story of their own in fiction, or where they provide information of their own in non-fiction. 

Art Tip!  Consider reading the text aloud first without showing the illustrations. Then have children reread it while exploring the pages themselves. Discuss how the illustrations contribute meaning to the story.

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