“Those books are for babies.” That’s the reaction teacher’s often get when they introduce picture books in the classroom to older primary and high school students. There’s a widespread belief that once children start reading at a certain level, they should leave picture books behind forever.
Children absorb this belief from well-meaning parents who think that to succeed academically students need to graduate to chapter books as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this view is doing children a disservice as picture books have much to offer students of all ages.
Educators have long recognised that picture books are an excellent resource which is why they still use them right through primacy school and high school.
Here are 7 reasons older children should continue reading picture books:
While older students may scoff initially when picture books are introduced in the classroom, they quickly forget their misgivings once the stories and images start working their magic. These books are particularly good for disengaged students and they can help foster a love of reading in those who are struggling. Advanced students also have much to gain because the beauty of picture books is that they can be interpreted on multiple levels.
The language in picture books might be minimal but it is often evocative and colourful. Reading with images can boost literacy by helping students interpret new words in the context of the visual story. Students who shy away from chapter books, are more likely to read picture books and graphic novels on their own, leading to improved literacy.
Sophisticated literary concepts such as point of view, symbolism and intertextuality can be difficult for children to grasp. Picture books make teaching these concepts much easier because they use tangible images to make them concrete. Many picture books explicitly play with narrative conventions to teach children how stories work.
In today’s highly visual culture, students need to understand how meaning is created through images. Picture books allow them to study techniques such as the use of colour, the placement of objects in the foreground and background and the impact of different angles.
When children are aware of how images create meaning and affect emotions, they can think more critically about advertisements and other visual mediums designed to influence them.
Far from catering only to small children, picture books tackle weighty subjects such as bullying, divorce and bereavement. They stimulate discussion and encourage children to think about other people’s perspectives.
Picture books are perfect for enjoying together, which is why they work well in the classroom. At home even older kids can benefit from reading with parents or siblings. Reading picture books together provides an opportunity to discuss the images and themes, which is very beneficial.
Picture books are fun and educational for all students.