\Helping Young Children Recognize the Power and Potential
of Content Area Text Images
Young children naturally have an interest in pictures and drawing. In fact, young children tightly grip their crayons and eagerly begin scribbling and drawing long before they start formal schooling. We love these masterpieces, quickly put their name and date on them, and the drawings become keepsakes that are hard for us to throw away. Children sense the value we place on their drawings; therefore, as their communication becomes much less dependent on pictures and they shift to communicating with written words, we must continue to nurture the importance of engaging with images.
Instead of focusing children’s attention away from images as they begin to read extended text, we need to harness their interest in images in order for them to understand information they encounter in science, social studies and math. In fact, reading visual images is a 21st century skill. According to Aukerman and Schuldt (2016), images should not be something we primarily focus and talk about with our youngest students only until their decoding skills improve. Instead, we need our young students to understand the richness of text and broaden the aspects of texts with which they engage (Dyson, 2002).
The Role of Images in Creating Young Scientists, Historians, and Mathematicians
At the youngest grade levels we actively involve our students in learning. As they participate in hands on activities, we expose students to a variety of informational texts. However, we must ask ourselves some questions.
--Can our students understand images such as charts, tables, and even simple diagrams that they encounter within the texts?
--Can they follow a timeline and understand how historians show the passage of time?
-- Do they realize the important role that images play in informational text they might read individually or as a group?
Whether we are looking at a children’s text on plants, the desert, or even community helpers, images play a key role in conveying content information.
Unfortunately, teachers receive very little training regarding how best to support students’ engagement with images (Painter & Unsworth, 2013). What can we do to not only focus students’ attention on images they encounter at the primary grades but also prepare them for more complex images they will encounter in future text? The purpose of this article is to provide practical suggestions to help teachers achieve this important educational goal.
Viewing Images in Text
Let’s begin by drawing our students’ attention to images that they encounter in content area texts. In this way, we are emphasizing their importance and helping them to become knowledgeable viewers.
Focusing on the Purpose of Images
Begin by pointing out a few examples of images that students have encountered in text and discuss why the images are included in the text. For example, tables or time lines are often very detailed because the author cannot put every bit of information from those images into the text and it would be a waste of space. Likewise, a text may have a flow chart to show how a process such as evaporation occurs, but students need to realize that the arrows on it are serving a purpose. The arrows may be showing the relationship between water, heat, and evaporation.
On a large sheet of butcher paper or the white board, explain various purposes images may serve: The following are adaptations of Levin’s categories (Levin, 1981)
● Provide information not discussed in the printed words
● Show relationships between concepts.
● Restate what is in the printed word.
● Serve as decoration to make the text more attractive.