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The Importance of Illustration

The children's books featured on the Power of Pictures have been chosen because of the quality of the illustrations they contain and the ways in which the illustrations work with the text to create meaning for the reader. Children will need time and opportunities to enjoy and respond to the pictures and to talk together about what the illustrations contribute to their understanding of the text.

Responding to illustration
In the best picturebooks illustration and text work closely together to create meanings. Children are naturally drawn to the illustrations in a picturebook and are frequently far more observant than an adult reader. Children’s interest in images and their ability to read them can be developed through carefully planned interventions with an emphasis on talk.

Discussions about illustrations can include all children and help to make a written text more accessible. Time spent focusing on illustration can contribute to children’s ability to read for meaning, express their ideas and respond to the texts they encounter.

Gallery Walk
A gallery walk allows children to walk the story of a picturebook. The illustration spreads without text are displayed in sequence around the classroom or larger hall space and the children walk individually or in groups around the room building their own picture of the narrative through the illustration. Children can discuss their different interpretations of the story by discussing the images, working out what is happening and possible motivations of the characters. They can also empathise with different characters and situations by drawing on personal experiences.

Illustrating Characters
Illustrating characters alongside an illustrator or enabling adult gives children a starting point into the process of how to bring characters to life through illustration. Children who are less confident to begin this process can see where starting points are, the shapes that are used to build up characters and how detail such as proportion, facial expression, clothing and props can add layers of understanding about character and emotion.

Drawing characters focuses attention on them: how they look; what they say; how they behave. To build their ideas of what a character is like, children have to refer to the text. They can also be encouraged to draw on the language of the text in making annotations around the drawings.

Illustrating own Characters and settings
Giving children the time to illustrate their own characters as part of their idea development focuses attention on them: how they look; what they say; how they behave. When first creating a character, children will need lots of time to explore and experiment, trying out different ideas in a range of media. They can then talk about which ideas work best for them and which characters they feel speak their story.

To build their ideas of what a character is like, children may have to create and re-create them in different ways. It is important to give children time to experiment with proportion, facial expression, clothing and props to give their intended reader further clues about the characters they create.

Throughout this process children’s thoughts will be focused intently on the character, enabling descriptive language and narrative ideas to develop, readying them for the writing process.

Asking children to picture or visualise their ideas is a powerful way of encouraging them to move into a fictional world. Children can be asked to picture the scene in their mind's eye or walk round it in their imaginations. Finally they can bring it to life recreating it in drawing, painting or other media.

Illustrating story settings or key events prompt children to imagine what a scene looks like, or visualise it from a particular viewpoint. Like drama, it enables children to enter the world of the story and provides support for writing.