“The picture book is an ideal genre for developing interest in reading and content. We define a picture book as one in which the text and illustrations have an important and supporting relationship…while picture books are often considered materials for young readers, many illustrated texts are appropriate for older students in both content and visual composition.” (Fresch & Harkins, 2009, p.2)

 

Picture books are no longer considered exclusively for use with young, early readers. They are growing in popularity as a strategy for engaging a wider, and older, audience (Takahashi, 2018). Because picture books are relatively brief, they can be incorporated into the secondary classroom in multiple ways. They support older readers, including those who believe they do not enjoy reading. Since picture books do not overwhelm older students with dense print, students can practice using higher-level skills (Fresch & Harkins, 2009; Jacobson, 2015). The combination of pictures and words encourages readers to comprehend the text on multiple levels (McLaughlin & DeVoogd, 2004). The complexity of many picture books requires readers to use critical thinking skills (Jacobson, 2015).

The content, structure, and format of picture books make them an excellent textbook supplement, extending content information and offering readers alternative perspectives (Fresch & Harkins, 2009). Using picture books in secondary classrooms can also provide students with a bridge for initiating and engaging in conversations they might otherwise find difficult (Ripp, 2015). 

Picture books can be incorporated into secondary classrooms in many ways and for a variety of purposes:

Independent Reading

  • Add picture books to the classroom library for students to self-select and enjoy. Because they are brief, students can read them multiple times in one sitting.
  • Include picture books in theme or topic-based book displays and browsing boxes.
  • Introduce picture books through book talks, just like any other text form.

Teacher-Led Read-Alouds

  • Select picture books for think-alouds and/or to model and practice reading strategies.
  • Introduce and build background knowledge about a topic, theme, or concept through a picture book.
  • Incorporate picture books into mini-lessons on writer’s craft, literary devices, new vocabulary, critical literacy skills, etc.
  • Share a picture book as a prompt for writing and/or discussion.

Book Clubs

  • Create book clubs around a selection of picture books on a related theme.
  • Use picture books to practice discussing and responding to text before launching book clubs with longer texts.

Putting It All Together

  • Picture books are an appropriate text choice to engage secondary students.
  • Picture books do not overwhelm students with dense text, which allows them to practice higher-level skills such as critical thinking.
  • Picture books are an effective supplement for textbooks, to extend content information and offer alternative perspectives.
  • Picture books can provide students with a bridge to initiate and engage in conversations.
  • Picture books can be incorporated into the secondary classroom during independent reading, teacher-led read-alouds, and book clubs.

Putting It All Together

  • Picture books are an appropriate text choice to engage secondary students.
  • Picture books do not overwhelm students with dense text, which allows them to practice higher-level skills such as critical thinking. 
  • Picture books are an effective supplement for textbooks, to extend content information and offer alternative perspectives.
  • Picture books can provide students with a bridge to initiate and engage in conversations.
  • Picture books can be incorporated into the secondary classroom during independent reading, teacher-led read-alouds, and book clubs.

How to Use the Beyond Words Resources to Support Incorporating Picture Books in Grades 6-12

  • Use the book summaries and links to materials to identify and explore picture books to incorporate into independent reading, teacher-led read-alouds, and book clubs.
  • Individual, small group and whole class activities posted in the Teacher Resource section offer a variety of options for engaging students with picture books before, during, and after independent reading and read-alouds. The activities are flexible and can be adapted for your purposes and grade-level.
  • The Teacher Resource section also provides options for responses, reflections, and discussions that can be used when incorporating picture books into book clubs.

References

Fresch, M. J. & Harkins, P. (2009). The Power of Picture Books: Using Content Area Literature in Middle School.  National Council of Teachers of English. Download a sample chapter here. (Links to an external site.)

Jacobson, L. (2015). Teachers Find Many Reasons to Use Picture Books with Middle and High School Students. School Library JournalSeptember 9. Retrieved from https://www.slj.com/?detailStory=teachers-find-many-reasons-to-use-picture-books-with-middle-and-high-school-students (Links to an external site.)

McLaughlin M. & DeVoogd, G. L. (2004). Critical Literacy: Enhancing Students’ Comprehension of Text. Scholastic. Download a sample chapter here. (Links to an external site.)

Ripp, P. (2015, September 2). But How Do You Really Teach with Picture Books? (Links to an external site.) (Blog post). Retrieved from https://pernillesripp.com/2015/09/02/but-how-do-you-really-teach-with-picture-books/ (Links to an external site.)

Takahashi, D. (2018, November 25). Picture books are for teens too! (Links to an external site.) (Blog post). Retrieved from http://yalsa.ala.org/blog/2018/11/25/picture-books-are-for-teens-too/

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