Yes, pictures are important. Too often families do not understand the key role illustrations and photos play in supporting growing literacy skills. Rather than asking, "What letter does this word begin with?" or saying, "Sound out the word," we should point to a picture and say, "Look at the picture. That picture is giving you a clue about the words on the page." These kinds of prompts help children predict words and draw attention to a key reading strategy - use of text features.
Let's first consider how to use pictures on a page. We like to have children look at pictures. Encourage them to talk about the illustration. Ask what the page might be about by using the pictures. This helps children make predictions, a skill that will be important as they grow as readers. For now, talking about the text features and using the possible words on the page is an age-appropriate way for children to learn the vocabulary of the book. Point out to children that this helps them think about the words the author is going to use.
As you read the page to children, stop to point out the many times correct predictions were made. Of course, you don't want to do this all of the time as it interrupts the flow of the story (See below for further discussion of this). But it is important to help children see the power of using pictures to make predictions.
We also suggest using a "secret signal" to help listeners interact with the text. Ask children to give you a thumbs up if they hear you say a word that they thought would be on the page. We like this strategy as it encourages active thought about a text.
Above, we mention the importance of not interrupting the flow of the story. As children grow as readers, they will be engaging in close reading skills. This means they will be reading portions of a text multiple times. Using pictures to make predictions can help children become "close readers."
For a first read, slowly turn pages and ask children what words they think will be on each page. For a second read, ask children to give you a thumbs up if they hear the predicted words on select pages. Finally, ask children to listen and enjoy the entire story. This helps them to think about books in a complete way. Of course, you will not do this with every book, but using this age-appropriate close reading strategy few times a week, is a key school readiness skill.
Using comprehensible input, especially pictures, is a necessary strategy to assist your English-language learners. Show pictures while carefully verbalizing the nouns and verbs the pictures depict. This component of comprehensible input helps grow English vocabulary.
Family Connection -
Be sure to communicate the importance of pictures to families. Unfortunately, we have heard parents tell children to avoid looking at illustrations. It is up to you to help families understand the importance of these text features.
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Standards Alignment -
NAEYC - 2.E.
Head Start - VII.A.