Picture literacy is the ability to make meaning of images. And since most of the information we receive is through our eyes - I guess it’s pretty important to digest what we are seeing.
In teaching our six year-old to read, my focus was on reading comprehension and making sure she understood the text. We do this, by having long conversations (initiated by her) about how the story relates to her life.
She usually points to each word when she reads aloud, and sometimes I find her eyes drifting to the pictures, instead of trying to decode the words.
One day, she interrupted our bedtime story and insisted she saw this picture before. She went to our collection of books, flipped through the pages and to my surprise, she was right.
Two different books used the same exact picture.
Now we’ve read different books by the same illustrator, but I’ve never noticed an illustrator using the same picture in different stories.
I was super impressed with our young daughter’s memory and attention to detail. She studied those two pictures - looking at the page numbers, observing the characters and text - for some time.
There are many moments in which our daughter teaches me - this was one of them.
I've now realized that her picture reading isn't a distraction or deficiency. Instead it's quite an amazing skill that will broaden her imagination and reading comprehension when or if she transitions to non-picture books.
While, I’ve always been pretty intentional about the books we read as a family, I rarely thought about actually discussing what we were seeing.
Picture literacy is also essential in this current society where we are bombarded with images of both true and false narratives.
So what do we do now?
I'm definitely not going to force conversations about art. I will continue to be intentional about what we read and let our girls lead our discussions.
Now that I'm even more aware of the powerful stories we have read, I wanted to share some illustrators that tell unforgettable stories with their art.
Kathleen Atkins Wilson
The Origin of Life on Earth: An African creation myth is a beautiful illustration of how we got here.
The girls and I had fun creating crafts from this ancient Yoruba myth. My most memorable scene was how womyn and man were crafted by hand from the Earth.
Illustrated by Sidante Currie, this book depicts the life of the Warrior Queen Nzingha starting from birth. I'm grateful to the author and illustrator for documenting this historical figure in a way our children would love.
In Henry’s Freedom Box, a young man mails himself to freedom. These powerful illustrations shed a new light on the Underground Railroad and screamed bravery, patience and determination. Kadir Nelson is an amazing artist and we highly recommend checking out more of his books.
Talk Talk, is an Ashanti legend that reminds us that all life (even a rock) has a spirit. With beautiful pictures by Dave Albers and the repetitive retelling by Deborah M. Newton Chocolate, this book is a classic in our family.
John Henry Hammerin’ Hero: The Graphic Novel
We’ve read many versions of John Henry and this graphic novel is full of details we did not find in others, as well as pictures that give more context to the brave man who challenged a machine.
These are five of our favorite picture books. Who are your family’s favorite illustrators? What have you noticed about your child's picture literacy?
Until next time.
Peace & Love
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