Reading the Pictures
Long before a child is capable of reading the words in a book, they are drawn to the pictures. What you may not know is that pictures play a beneficial role in early literacy and storytelling skill development as well.
Strengthening Early Literacy and Storytelling
You can “read” a book to your child without ever reading a word. Ask your child what they see, what the character is doing. In books with minimal content and small words (meant for preschoolers), the setting is created by the illustrations, not the words. By pointing out details in the pictures and asking your child questions about the images, you are setting the stage for the story.
While looking through books children have the ability to ask or be asked about aspects of the book. What a character might feel, what they are doing, what objects are around etc. Asking questions about what is read is an important skill at all levels of reading.
Create Your Own Story
Ask your child what is happening in each picture. The story that arises may or may not follow the text, but that’s okay. These are the building blocks to storytelling being cultivated. Fill in with more details and questions. Does Sally look sad or happy? Guided reflection with your child will help to create the story.
Expanding the World
Pictures in story books have the ability to expand a child’s world beyond what they are exposed to in their home and community. A child in a large city may never go to a farm in person to see or hear the animals. Kids raised in a small town have may no concept of a skyscraper but through books they can become part of the child’s world.
With this expanding world view new vocabulary arises. The vocabulary may be connected to the written words but also may not be. The details visible in the illustrations can be talked about at length no matter what the text actually says. Children with extensive vocabulary tend to have higher level reading ability than children who do not.
As you can see, early literacy is not all about the actual reading. For preschoolers, it’s about observation, inquiry, deduction, induction, imagination, and reflection. There will be plenty of time for chapter books later. For now, don’t forget to read the pictures.