Why picture books are effective for older students, too

Why picture books are effective for older students, too

Experienced educator Giselle Pulford says picture books are impactful for upper primary students, if used effectively.

Despite perceptions from both educators and students, the upper primary school teacher strongly believes that picture books can be an engaging resource in a classroom full of older kids.

However, she told literacy experts Sharon and Phil Callen that it’s all about how teachers use the picture books within their lesson, irrespective of the text’s intended target audience.

“A lot of the time it’s very much me thinking who tells [the message or concept] better than I will. Which author, or which voice is going to bring that across in a more authentic way? Or even just with their word choice, who is really going to hit that better than I could in front of the class? And so I’ll just be the conduit by bringing in the book,” Giselle said on episode 34 of The Teacher’s Tool Kit for Literacy.

“So, it’s not necessarily that the books are written for an older reader, but how I choose to use a picture book with them to make that.”

But a big hurdle teachers may come across is misconceptions from the older students themselves, who may initially feel disdain or embarrassment when reading these texts.

“There can be some real differences in how students approach picture books. Some think very strongly that it is meant to be an early reading experience. So it’s the type of book that helps you learn to read. And you don’t read it once you can read,” she explained.

“And then I have students who perhaps have a low level of reading skill and feel a lot of comfort in a picture book, but also have level of embarrassment of reading that in front of their peers, perhaps. And so there’s a real struggle there for some of those students that love these books but can’t see anyone else reading a book like this.”

Giselle said this can be overcome by introducing picture books and establishing a positive message at the start of the year.

“I actually have a book (The Koala Who Could by Rachel Bright and Jim Field) that I’ll often start the year with … because it finishes with ‘life can be great when you try something new’,” she said.

“And so I often start the year with that book for that exact line of, you’re in a new class, it’s a new year, what are you going to try and what are you going to aim for? And it’s also about deliberately setting up that everyone can read picture books and we’re going to be reading them quite a lot.

“And so, I try to set that message very early, not necessarily knowing the students in front of me yet. But some of them are going to be dismissive and they need to kind of work through that too, because actually we’re going to gain something from these books. Some of them are going to need picture books and they just feel that validation that there’s a space for that type of reading in this class.”

Sharon said picture books bring joy to literacy, even for older students.

“When talking about the idea of picture books in general, the first thing that comes to our mind is tantalising texts, because there’s so much to grasp in picture books. So even if I wasn’t using them for necessarily a purpose, just the sheer joy of another story is enough,” Sharon said.

Giselle added: “It’s about that joy and about that engagement and about showing those students that if you’re reading a fairly deep or intricate novel at the moment, or if you’re working your way through an information text because you’re in a research mode with what you’re doing with your study, that a picture book can still give you a moment in time of joy or an emotional connection, or even prompt a thought in a quicker way than you might’ve had with the other reading.

“So yes, tantalising texts is exactly how I would refer to some of the picture books, because all I want from them is for my students to experience it and just go wow, how good was that book?”

You can find book recommendations for older readers, including picture books, here.

Listen to the full chat with Giselle Pulford on Episode 34 of The Teacher’s Tool Kit for Literacy below or subscribe on Apple PodcastsSpotify or Google Podcasts.

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