The Missouri Reader Vol. 42, Issue 1 - Page 11



"The common theme that seems to have emerged from a number of literacy leaders such as Burkes & Yaris, Fountas and Pinnell and Calkins is that a child is not a level."

A PICTURE Really is Worth a Thousand Words


Julie Bryant and Tamara Samek

lliteracy and comprehension in our students. When adults question children about their interpretations of illustrations in picturebooks and discuss their responses, it can help children interpret visual messages (Mantei & Kervin., 2014; Marciano, 2002; Serafini, 2014). Guiding students in activscaffolded conversations that involve teachers asking divergent (higher level) questions, leads students to deeper understanding of the illustrations (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock, 2001; Gillenwater, 2014; Yu, 2009). Children strengthen their visual literacy as they listen to their peers’ responses and hear other perspectives and thinking modeled.

When considering pictures vs. alpha characters, other benefits become prevalent. WPB offer students time to think more deeply about what is taking place on each page. The reader can feel free to “camp out” awhile to fully study and enjoy the message. Children often ‘hone in’ on details adults may overlook or deem irrelevant. Teachers should allow children time to ‘drink’ in the scene and really listen when they begin to relay what they ‘see’ happening within the illustration on each page. As they connect one illustration to the previous and next illustrations to form their story parallel to the original story, you may be surprised at the child’s level of meaning making. Additionally, WPB help young readers think about some other vital things: including how the illustrations support and often drive a story; how to retell a story in their own words, which encourages creativity, imagination, language play, and vocabulary development; and how to be the authors and illustrators of their very own stories.

How to Share a WPB

Before we begin sharing strategies, it is important that teachers have an understanding

of how to best experience a WPB with a child. First of all, teachers should recognize there is not a "right" or "wrong" way to read a wordless book. We suggest first drawing attention to the illustration of the cover. Open the book to display the front and back cover to reveal a single expanded illustration, asking, ‘What do you notice?” Then, read the title asking, “How does the illustration connect with the title?”

Next, take a "picture walk" through the pages of the book, enjoy the rich details of the illustrations. Look carefully at the expressions on characters' faces, the setting and the use of color, size of the characters, and where the characters are on the page in relation to each other. Talk to each other about what you see. Enjoy the pictures and point out a few things, but don't worry too much about telling a story yet. Just enjoy the pictures and get a sense of what the book is about. Then, encourage the child to "read" the pictures. After the child states what he thinks is happening or what he notices, ask “What do you see that makes you think that?” You can encourage more details by asking Who? What? Where? When? and Why?

We recommend going back through the book a second time to allow for some great storytelling! Encourage the child to have characters use different voices, add sound effects and use interesting words as they share their version of the book. Finish your wordless book sharing by asking a few simple questions: What pictures helped you tell the story? What was your favorite part of your story? Have you had an experience like the one in your story? How close do you think the main characters are to you in age? Do the characters look like you and your family?


Now that you know the benefits and how to share a WPB, let’s take a walk through some strategies using our P.I.C.T.U.R.E acronym.