Choosing and using Picture Books

With an increasing wealth of picturebooks in production and being published, it is important that teachers across the age ranges have a good knowledge of the range of appropriate authors, illustrators and books available and understand how best to use these with children. 

As Dr Sue Horner and Janet White noted in the Power of Pictures Evaluation, "Picture books should be part of reading for pleasure by all ages of children."  Lingering over pictures early in the text invites prediction about plot, character, theme and structure, and these possibilities can soon be modified and re-assessed as the reading continues. When discussing pictures, children can point to evidence for their ideas and interpretations.

Children in the research phase of the project showed skills of inference and deduction using the pictures to hypothesise about character, plot and emotion. In particular, teachers spoke of the benefit of using these texts with EAL pupils, who were thus more readily able to read inferentially. These essential skills for reading can evidently be developed at an early age when using picture books. Some picture books are indeed more suitable for older children as the messages and the complexity of the characters and drawings are more challenging, though children need to learn how to spend time on the pages and not just skim through. 

It is fundamentally important that teachers understand how and when to use these texts in practice and consider the depth and range of approaches for using picturebooks when planning a sequence of work around such texts. The resource document, Choosing and Using Picturebooks, drawing on the work of Jane Doonan, gives useful considerations and subject knowledge to support teachers and other adults in using picturebooks effectively with children.