Using Picture Books with Older Children

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Using Picture Books With Older Children

Picture Books Are Not Written to Teach Reading

I believe children of any age, including in secondary school, benefit from reading picture fiction. Illustrations along with text lead to more complex analyses of a story. Reading between the lines provides opportunities for interpretation through exploration and discussion. Using picture books with older children encourages them to read for pleasure and meaning.

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 Written for Older Children Too!

There is a perception that picture books are only for the young. Yet, many authors create picture books with an older audience in mind. 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 or identity.

Selecting Picture Books For Older Children

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

Spend time reading the book to make sure it has a deeper meaning that leads to discussion and discovery. Check for opportunities to predict, infer, hypothesise 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 books for recommendations. Here are some of the most famous book awards for children’s books.

Using Picture Books with Older Readers

Listening to a read-aloud benefits children of all ages. They can concentrate on comprehension, inference and predicting what will happen next.

Share the preferred 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, particularly for students of varying abilities, to engage at their own level.

As the teacher, you can 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. 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?

Picture Books for Older Children

These 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.

Many older children still love to read books with illustrations. I have seen many teenagers visit the library and sit totally engrossed in a picture book. Provide your students the time to read picture books if they wish. They are a format worth considering to enhance a student’s reading progression.

Explore these resources to discover more information about using picture fiction with older children.

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

Do you have any favourite picture books to use with older students in your classroom? Let me know in the comments below. It would be great to have a selection of recommended books to choose from when I update this post.

You can also check out other related posts on Children’s Library Lady below.

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2 thoughts on “Using Picture Books with Older Children”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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