Discover the Benefits of Picture Books for Older Readers

Discover the Benefits of Picture Books for Older Readers

There is a perception that illustrated books are only for young children, but many authors create them for older children too. Read on to discover the literacy benefits of picture books for older readers.

Picture Books Are Not Written to Teach Reading

I believe children of any age, including in middle and high school, enjoy exposure to picture fiction. Illustrations along with text lead to more complex analyses and reading between the lines provides opportunities for different interpretations. Exposure to picture books for older readers promotes reading for pleasure.

Sharing picture books with children leads to amazing conversations. In the best picture books there is a gap between the pictures and the words, a gap that is filled by the child's imagination.

Anthony Browne, Children's Laureate 2009–2011

Picture Books Are Not Only for Young Children

There is a perception that picture books are only for the young. Yet, many authors create picture books for older readers. Their message offers different levels of understanding with a more sophisticated message. Complex picture fiction also deals with sensitive topics, such as bereavement, self-esteem, identity and conflict.

Think about the benefits of reading picture books for middle school students when introducing complex topics. All students, no matter their reading ability or comprehension will be on a level playing field. The illustrated books will give your students a visual interpretation and start meaningful discussions.

Selecting Picture Books for Older Readers

When choosing picture book for older readers have a clear purpose. Is it for a lesson, casual reading or to introduce a specific topic?

Explore the book before reading it to make sure it has a deeper meaning that leads to discussion and discovery. Check for opportunities to predict, infer, hypothesis and change opinions as the story progresses. Does the book promote discussion of plot, characters, theme and story structure? And will the illustrations engage your students to stay focused?

You can browse the following websites of shortlisted and award-winning picture books for recommendations.

Using Picture Books for Older Readers

Listening to a picture book read-aloud benefits children of all ages. They can concentrate on comprehension, inference and predicting what will happen next while someone else carries the reading load.

Share a book on an interactive whiteboard, if you can. This allows the whole class to engage with the book in their own way. Presenting the book gives each student the time to process the story along with the imagery.

Displaying the illustrations gives students time to confirm their ideas and predictions. Illustrations are a wonderful way for students of varying abilities, to engage at their own level.

As you are reading pause when appropriate to focus on plot, characters and dialogue. Pausing aids students in making connections and forming empathy for characters and their situation. Here are a few questions about character development to get you started. You can discover other prompts here.

  • How do you know what the characters are feeling?
  • What is the character thinking? How do you know?
  • What is the character’s goal/mission? How will they achieve their goal?
  • Why did the character make this choice? Could they have made a better choice?
  • What is the character going to do next? How will their actions affect the story?

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Recommended Picture Books for Older Readers

These picture books introduce more complex themes and are wonderful discussion starters. They will appeal to children who are newly fluent readers who want a rich reading experience. Many recommendations are by authors whose other picture books are also suitable for older students.

These picture books are also great examples of picture books for middle school, or course depending on your needs.

What Next?

Provide your students the time to read picture books if they wish. Many older children still love to read books with illustrations. I have seen many teenagers visit the library and sit engrossed in a picture book.

If you would like to explore more picture books for older readers check out these resources.

Do you use picture fiction with older readers? How do you engage them in reading for pleasure? Let me know in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Discover the Benefits of Picture Books for Older Readers”

  1. I like your selections too and your layout – and what a unique topic to cover. As a fan of illustration and art, I say we can all enjoy picture books solely for their artwork and the copy can be an added bonus. I often think of this amazing little book I took out of the library as an adult. If I find it again, I’ll send you the link – it’s a small square book with an abstract subject – something about a shape falling from the sky or altering itself… but it’s beautifully realized and not easily forgotten.

  2. I always love your book selections! I have a ton of books, yet I always find new ones on your site I haven’t seen before. It’s great to remember that picture books aren’t just for the younger children. As you pointed out, there is a lot they can learn from them and it helps them experience literature in a different way.

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