I’m often asked questions about supporting children as they learn to read. I’ve always been fascinated by the process, and I’ve received some amazing education devoted to early literacy. I’ve also been blessed to be involved as many children learned to read.
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One of the most common questions/comments I receive are focused on the pictures in children’s early readers.
- “Is my child really reading if he looks at the pictures?”
- “Should I cover up the pictures in my child’s books?”
- “Won’t the pictures just confuse my child?”
These questions come from parents and educators, alike, usually because they know how much I love discussing early literacy. I love that parents are so involved as their children learn to read, and I love that they respect my opinion enough to ask. I also know there’s a lot of misinformation on the internet, and I’m always happy to help! So, in a nutshell, here’s my answer:
let kids look at the pictures as they learn to read
Let the kiddos look at the pictures while they learn to read! Preschool and early elementary children need the pictures in their early readers.
Illustrations draw children into a book. When children are first sitting in a parent’s lap and listening to a story, it’s the pictures they focus on. The pictures help children understand what the book is about. Understanding what the book is about lays the groundwork for questions like, “Does what I read make sense?”
A kindergarten child has a simple reader in his hands and the text says, “I can see a pig.” He knows the first four words, but he isn’t able to decode the word ‘pig’ because the sound G makes isn’t cemented in his mind. He reads, “I can see a . . .”, then looks through the word pig and says “p…i….” Checking the picture at this point will help him to realize that the word is ‘pig.’ If he had read the sentence as “I can see a penguin”, checking the photo would likely make him stop and go back to check that word again.
Some parents and educators are concerned that letting children look at the pictures will only lead to guessing. I can understand that concern, as some children might fall into guessing. However, the teacher/parent can quickly bring the child’s eyes back to the text with a question or comment.
As kids learn to read, their brains are busy making so many connections. They need to be shown a variety of strategies to help them along this process. So please let emerging readers reference the pictures in their books as they learn.
I do want to reiterate that using pictures as a context cue is just one small strategy involved in learning to read. I chose to focus on it today because it’s one of the most-asked questions I receive. What other questions do YOU have about the reading process. I’d love to hear them below so I can share more ideas with you!
If you found this post helpful, be sure to check out Still Playing School’s Picture Walk Preview for Early Readers. She explains another important piece of the process kids go through as they learn to read!
Another great early literacy post is The Measured Mom’s 5 Things Kids Need Before “Sounding Out” Words.