Since children are born images are part of their lives. Before being able to speak they can read the faces of the ones they love, and before being able to read, they can understand a text through posters and images. Educating children in reading images enhances their capabilities as readers and provides them with new ways of amusement. Illustrated books are a very effective material to encourage the development of these skills and provide an enriching and educational reading experience.
Which images to work with?
Labels, signs, logos, brochures, books, newspapers, magazines, films, photographs, pictures ... all of them constitute a wide, rich and varied range of images, but remember that:
· There isn’t any age specific colour. Any shade combination is appropriate to any reader, regardless of age, as long as they are consistent with the text they go with.
· It’s not just figurative and realistic illustrations that children can enjoy. We can help to open their eyes to the attractions of expressionism, abstract art and surrealism as well.
· It is advisable to offer books that help to understand the techniques, materials and colours used by illustrators: art books on painting and painters, museums, colours, artistic creation, etc.
Some proposals for working on the image
In the school and library environments there are various activities that can teach children to interpret images and let them discover the codes within language as well as their various functions, techniques and styles.
Playing with pictures:
§ Visual guessing riddles: Show a part of an image so children will try to guess what it is.
§ "I spy" to find specific details of an illustration.
§ To identify the mood of a character and their relationship with the rest whilst watching their facial expressions.
§ To watch how the characters look at each other or how they or they don’t establish eye contact with the reader, so later verify if they express warmth, closeness and kindness
§ To Imagine and to tell what happens before or after a story, by looking at the details and elements of an illustration (the relationship between the characters, the time of the day, period, environment, etc)
§ To scramble the images of a story and to ask the children to put them in order following a logical sequence.
§ To show illustrations (cards, slides ...) created by the same author asking children to identify those belonging to the same story.
§ To find which items appear in the images that are not in the text.
Looking for elements and comparing among themselves:
§ Showing illustrated books to children with different styles and colours to play to recognize, identify...
§ Talking about images, explaining how they have been made and trying out the same techniques artists use (watercolor, collage, acrylics, ink, etc.) so children can assess and admire them.
§ Comparing versions of different illustrators on the same story: classic tales are a good choice and it is easy to find different versions of Little Red Riding Hood, Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland etc.
Creating own images and texts:
§ Drawing a different ending for a story.
§ Illustrating a story from reading it aloud using different materials for drawing, coloring, texturing, etc.
§ Drawing the characters of a story from their description.
§ Showing pictures of some characters and asking the children to guess who they are, to describe their personalities, their social and cultural background, their jobs, which era they are from... and then compare the results with text descriptions.
And remember, any image is suitable to work with. Let’s give children a chance to get excited, either by looking at a good illustration in a book, a picture exhibited in a museum, a beautiful photograph or a billboard.