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.
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.
A Page in the Wind by Jose Sanabria
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson
Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War by Yukio Tsuchiya
The Hard-Times Jar by Ethel Footman Smothers
The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
Kamishibai Man by Allen Say
The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
Michael Rosen's Sad Book by Michael Rosen
My Father’s Arms are a Boat by Stein Erik Lunde
Ojiichan's Gift by Chieri Uegaki
One Small Island by Alison Lester
Razia's Ray of Hope: One Girl's Dream of an Education by Elizabeth Suneby
Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei by Peter Sis
Under the Lemon Moon by Edith Hope Fine
What Is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack
The Widow's Broom by Chris Van Allsburg
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.
- CLPE: Choosing and Using Picture Books
- The Guardian: How to find picture books for older children
- Rising Stars: Using a high-quality picture book to inspire poets at Upper KS2
- Book Trust: Books and reading
Do you use picture fiction with older readers? How do you engage them in reading for pleasure? Let me know in the comments below.