Using Picture Books With Older Children
Picture Books Are Not Written to Teach Reading
I passionately believe children from any age can benefit from exposure to picture books. Through my teaching career, I have spoken to parents who are often in a hurry to move their young children onto chapter books, feeling picture books are too easy.
Picture books are written for children to understand not necessarily be able to read. That comes later. Illustrations along with text lead to more complex understandings. Reading between the lines with the help of images provides opportunities for interpretation through exploration. This is further enhanced through discussion with friends or classmates.
Picture books have a dual purpose. Reading and sharing with an adult and then to read independently when they are fluent readers, both helping to develop a love of reading.
Picture Books Are Not Only for Young Children
There is a perception that picture books are only for young children. However, many authors create picture books with an older audience in mind. They offer different levels of understanding and appreciation, but their message is more sophisticated and complex in both text and illustrations. Complex picture books help older children deal with sensitive topics, such as bereavement, self-esteem or identity.
Selecting Picture Books For Older Children
- Have a clear purpose. Is it for a lesson, casual reading or to introduce a specific topic?
- Spend time reading the books to make sure it has a deeper meaning that leads to discussion and discovery.
- Check the book allows for prediction, nuances, inferring, hypothesis and the opportunity for opinions to change as the story progresses.
- Does the book allow discussion of plot, characters, theme and story structure?
- Review the illustrations to see if they help children stay on the page rather than skipping past.
- Use resources around you, such as school librarians and teachers. You can also browse websites of shortlisted and award-winning books. Here are some of the most famous book awards for children’s books.
Using Picture Books at Home or in the Classroom
As you share the book model how to describe the plot, setting and characters and add dialogue. Initiate discussions by elaborating on what is happening and highlighting cause and effect and conflict and resolution. Asking questions teaches children to comprehend what they are reading and use the illustrations to deepen their understanding.
Here are a few questions to get you started with additional ones here.
- Tell me about the characters. What are their emotions?
- 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?
Picture Book List for Older Children
I am sharing books I have used or been recommended by teachers. They introduce complex themes and issues and are great for starting discussions and debate. When using them in a classroom environment the length makes them perfect to read with a whole class. If you have students of differing abilities, they can all engage at their own level.
These books will also appeal to children who are newly fluent readers who want to read a book with pictures but want a rich reading experience. Many of these books are written by authors whose other picture books are suitable for older children.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
The Eleventh Hour by Jacques Goldstyn
The Journey by Francesca Sanna
My Father’s Arms are a Boat by Stein Erik Lunde & Øyvind Torseter
Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg
Razia's Ray of Hope by Elizabeth Suneby
The Secret Subway by Shana Corey
Tsunami!! by Kimiko Kajikawa
Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne
The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman
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