Why do children’s books include pictures? Of course, colorful illustrations are eye-catching and pique any reader’s interest. Pictures in books don’t just exist for visual pleasure, though—they provide important visualization that deepen textual meaning.
The Common Core State Standards focuses on a reader's ability to gain meaning from pictures in both narrative and informational texts:
"Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, settings, or events" (RL.1.7)
"Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the wrods in a text" (RI.1.6)
Research shows that many students who struggle with reading comprehension also have trouble creating a mental image of what is happening in the text. With pictures to accompany the words, students receive a visual scaffolding that helps them understand the content of the story.
For example, students might have never encountered "a flock of doves" (2) in their lifetime. This unfamiliarity would seriously hinder a student's comprehension of The Dove King from Fables and the Real World.
However, the illustrations on page 2 allow students to infer that a dove is a white bird. Furthermore, because many birds are pictured, a "flock of doves" must refer to a group of birds. In this way, the book's illustrations promotes understanding and allows the students to access a book through multiple avenues.
Pictures aren't just for "little kids"! Hameray's Extraordinary Files series allows students at higher reading levels to benefit from visual representation in their books. Leveled from Guided Reading Level T to Y, this series features graphic novel-style art, like the one shown in the opening page of Sleepwalker (3). Even older readers will find this series sophisticated and age-appropriate.
Every spread of these 48-page books contain illustrations that give clues about the setting, plot, and characters' emotions. Better yet, the pictures don't sacrifice the complexity and richness of the actual text. Students must pay attention to the words and the pictures on the page to gain full understanding of the story. Older students who don't gravitate towards reading will love reading this series like a graphic novel!
As described above, pictures are helpful reading tools for readers of all age, especially for reluctant readers that would benefit from comprehension aids. What student doesn't love looking at pictures?
The foundational concept for this blog's ideas are supported by Gomes and Carter's "Navigating through Social Norms, Negotiating Place: How American Born Chinese Motivates Struggling Learners" (2010).
This is a guest blog post by teacher blogger Charity Preston. If you like what you read here, check back for more of her guest blog posts, or visit her over on The Organized Classroom Blog!
We know that many students, boys or girls, aren’t intrinsically motivated to read. This can be for a variety of reasons, including not feeling confident about their reading skills, it not being encouraged as a regular practice at home, or perhaps he or she just isn’t interested in the material at hand.
For many boys, in particular, reading choice selections can play a huge part in the buy-in process. How about three ideas for keeping them engaged and interested?
Comic Books and Graphic Novels
I would rather have students reading comic books than not reading at all. There is a lot of vocabulary involved on the pages of comic books and lots of themes involved as well. Plots of hero versus villain and right versus wrong might prevail, but so can smaller takeaways such as lessons of friendship. Graphic novels are a great way to keep boys clued in that all reading doesn’t have to be dry. Pick up a few for your classroom to see if it encourages your students to get reading. Sometimes multi-genre books contain sequences with comic-style drawings interspersed with exciting nonfiction topics, like the Download series does.
Sports legends, snakes, and race cars are the stuff that nonfiction is made of. Use those key topics to your advantage. Nonfiction is full of text features you won’t find in your average chapter book. Filled with images and small, bite-sized chunks of information in captions and sidebars, nonfiction often captures boys' attention more. Plus, picking out topics of interest will not only increase vocabulary in those key subject areas, but it will keep students interested in learning more. You just might have to ask your boys to stop reading!
Action Fiction Series
Many boys love a good action movie. Why not bring that movie to life in the books they read? For lots of students, it isn’t about quickly picking a book, but once he finds one in a series, he is suddenly hooked. Needing to read all the other adventures to find out what the main character is up to becomes an entire series of books. Perhaps an idea would be to do a “commercial” for several book series and use those to introduce the characters to your students. From that small teaser, your boys may be fighting over who gets the next chapter book!
As adults, we typically don’t read too many items we aren’t particularly interested in - and your students are exactly the same! It is up to you to find varied materials with varied themes, characters, and formats. By providing a variety of literature, you are opening a whole world of language to your students and showing each that there is pleasure in reading just for fun!
Charity Preston, MA, is the editor and creator of several websites, including The Organized Classroom Blog, Classroom Freebies, and Teaching Blog Central, among others. She received her undergraduate degree in early childhood education from Bowling Green State University, OH and a Master in Curriculum and Instruction from Nova Southeastern University, FL, as well as a gifted endorsement from Ohio University. She taught third grade in Lee County, FL for several years before relocating back to her hometown as a gifted intervention specialist. You can see all her projects at www.PENGroupOnline.com.
Welcome to our first installation of videos in which teacher educator and author Alan Trussell-Cullen answers questions about struggling and striving readers in the upper grades and how to best help them take an interest in and achieve proficiency in reading.
Click on the videos to watch. Transcripts, if preferred, are available below each of the videos.
Q: What kinds of difficulties does a striving reader have in the upper grades?
A: I think the difficulties that striving readers have in the upper grades tend to be two-fold. On one hand, there are technical issues. Obviously they’re going to have gaps in terms of their reading skills and their reading strategies. Because they’ve got those gaps they’re probably also going to have difficulties with comprehension.
Because a lot of learning that takes place in the upper grades is very closely tied in with reading, there is a lot of reading involved, then they’re going to have difficulties probably in other subject areas; the content areas like science and social studies, even mathematics and so on.
But the main difficulties that they tend to have tend to be attitudinal. It’s how they feel about themselves as readers and that so often tends to be rather negative and generally a lack of self-esteem that comes from the consistent problems they’ve been having with reading.
Q: What kinds of materials would be useful to support teachers and striving readers?
A: I think there are two things that reading materials have to do. First of all they’ve got to provide success for these striving readers. Secondary, they’ve got to provide acceleration. When we’re looking for good reading materials for striving readers, we need to look at the interest level or the content. It is tremendously important that the content is pitched at the age level that the student have when they’re reading this material. It has to be about the kind of things that students their age are interested in and want to know about and want to read about and get involved in.
That’s where materials like Hameray’s Download series and the The Extraordinary Files series are so valuable. Just have a look at the content; skateboarding, BMX riding, mountain bikes, pop groups, that’s really cool for kids of this age.
The language is very important. It’s important that not only that do characters do the kind of things they like doing, and think about the kind of things that they’d like to be able to be able to do and so on, they also need to talk like them too.
Q: What do you think about using plays for striving readers in the upper grades?
A: I really like the Hameray’s SuperScript Series. Plays are using all the language written down, they’ve same things people say when they talk. Talk is one of those things which striving readers can do. So when they are reading that material they’re also able to refer to back to their own knowledge and experience in terms of oral vocabulary, in terms of the kind of language constructions we use when we talk.
When you’re reading a play, you’re reading with a group of other students, you’re reading together with other people. That’s very supportive. It’s also fun. It’s also fun to be able to do something with your peers, so that’s great. While the reading age is more appropriate for Grade 2, Grade 3, the interest level is very much pitched to Grade 4 to 8.
If I was reading the play script, one of the things I would be supported by is the color coding, but also the big spaces between the lines. Basically, this is a very supportive text for a striving reader. The context is really spot on for the readers of this age. Just look at the titles, Time Warriors, Alien Attack. They’re really just exciting materials. I also like the fact the speeches are short, the cast is small so everybody gets a turn. I like the fact that the action moves along quickly and also they’re supported nicely by some illustration here.
They have also have some other clever things that come with them. The cast names are in colored code. So that you just have to know well I'm the green one, or so I'm reading the yellow part. That actually helps you. Because so often when kids are doing a play, they get so engrossed in the play they forget ah, it’s my turn next. So that’s a useful tip as well. So it’s all very helpful from a reading point of view, from a language point of view, from a social point of view, and also I think from a literacy point of view as well, because those are wonderful tradition in terms of drama and theater.
I think it might also encourage them in their writing as well. They might want to write a story about the kind of experience they have read here. They might want to write their own script, who knows. They might want to write their own little video play, lots of exciting possibilities. Maybe one other point, when you’re on a play, particularly some of the characters in these plays, these characters have got attitude. They do things. They say things. They make things happen, and that’s very empowering for them as people too.
The book series mentioned in this interview, Download series, The Extraordinary Files, and SuperScripts are part of Hameray's High Interest / Low Vocabulary genre, intended to encourage struggling readers to read through presenting compelling topics that they want to read about. Download offers facts about the exciting world of extreme sports and hot contemporary subjects such as technology and natural disasters. The Extraordinary Files is a mystery-fiction series that follows the adventures of two sleuths as they work to solve cases, often of a supernatural bent. SuperScripts are action-packed, easy-to-follow plays in such genres as sci-fi, drama, and sports. They combine reading with social interaction, making it fun for even the most reluctant reader.
Flip through samples of books from these series to see how they appeal to readers who have trouble taking an interest in reading.
If you're interested in learning more about these series, you can click on the images below to download an information sheet with highlights and key features. Check back on Friday for the second part of this Q & A!
Welcome to our first installation of videos in which professor emerita and literacy expert Dr. Adria Klein answers questions about struggling and striving readers in the upper grades and how to best help them take an interest in and achieve proficiency in reading. You can see the second post here.
Click on the videos to watch. Transcripts, if preferred, are available below each of the videos.
Q: What kinds of difficulties do struggling readers have in the upper grades?
A: Struggling readers in the upper grades have most of the difficulties around areas of comprehension and vocabulary. They often have trouble with fluency tied to their decoding needs.
Often times they struggle with concepts like word phrases and at times they are working through strategies and tend to rely on only one or two as they read, rather than multiple uses of strategies to support their reading and understanding.
Q: How can a teacher help striving older readers?
A: Lots of independent reading is one of the research bases for understanding a struggling older reader. Dick Allington talks about the fact that kids have to read, read, read, and read some more. That involves them being interested in reading, willing to read, wanting to read, and having the right books to support them.
Materials like the Download series from Hameray are critical to providing topics of interest to kids,a layout and a book that looks sophisticated, but provides the right level of support and entry for the reading that they are going to do in those texts.
We’ve got to find books that look sophisticated, are on topics that they are interested in, deal with characters they care about, and have some kind of support for their reading needs. But not by providing books that are too low-level.
Q: What kinds of material would be useful to support teachers and striving readers?
A: As we talked about the idea of older readers needing books appropriate for them, one good idea is to consider having recurring characters. The Extraordinary Files are a series of mysteries that have two characters that reoccur, but the kids they interact with in the story are the age of the reader that we intend to reach.
So thinking about the older reader, thinking about the recurring characters, they identify like they would with a series, in another book or in television or in movies and kids tend to like to follow a character.
Something else that hooks the reluctant reader at the upper grade-level is to see pictures in the book that look like the characters they would envision they would like to be if they put themselves in the book.
And so both the Download series and Extraordinary Files have an appropriate amount of picture support as well as high-interest characters and the age range appropriate to reach our students.
The book series mentioned in this interview, Download series and The Extraordinary Files, are part of Hameray's High Interest / Low Vocabulary genre, intended to encourage struggling readers to read through presenting compelling topics that they want to read about. Download offers facts about the exciting world of extreme sports and hot contemporary subjects such as technology and natural disasters. The Extraordinary Files is a mystery-fiction series that follows the adventures of two sleuths as they work to solve cases, often of a supernatural bent.
Flip through a couple of samples of books from these series to see how they appeal to readers who have trouble taking an interest in reading.
To see a wider variety of titles from these series, take a look at our catalog. We have a large selection of books from these two series and other series that will appeal to the same age-group and reading level. To see the second post in this series, click here!