See how easily you can use children’s picture books to improve your child’s reading and memory

My son is five years old. It is amazing to watch him learning to read. He is one of the lucky ones who has a natural aptitude for reading. He loves books and his reading growth, through the use of phonics, has been really noticeable. Now he tries to decipher every piece of written text he sees – from signs at the side of the road to screening notes which his teacher sends home from school to decide whether to hide them or not. Story time has changed at night time now. He wants to read the stories to myself and his little sister.

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I recently read an article from the Guardian that says that between the ages of six and eight children like my son turn their backs on picture books. In it Elaine Moss stated that children themselves sometimes found it hard to think themselves “good readers” if they were looking at pictures as well as text. This would be a shame for children like my son. Although he is very good at reading he, like his Dad, struggles when it comes to following instructions. Something in me finds it really hard to focus when listening to others. I guess it must be the same for my son. Maybe its a male thing.

One method to help him concentrate that the teacher recommended for him is to use the pictures after he reads a story as an aid for him to retell the story after he has read it. This is a great way of focusing a child’s mind.

As a special educational needs teacher I know that the use of stimuli can aid short term memory and the processing of instructions, making them more memorable. This is why picture books are so important for children of all of ages. I encourage all of my students, whether they have special educational needs, or not, to use the pictures and headings in their books to help them, more easily, memorise the content. One method is SQ4R. This stands for Survey, Question, Read, Record, Recite, Reflect.

Survey: The student should first look at the pictures and headings and guess what the content is about.

Question: The student should write a couple of questions that spring to mind about the text that they would like to find out. One easy way to do this if no questions come to mind is to turn the headings into questions: E.g. The Water Cycle: “What is the Water Cycle?”

Read: Read the text with the purpose of answering your questions.

Record: Take note of your answers to your questions in your own words.

Recite: explain in your own words to your partner, or the teacher what the main ideas were in the section.

Review: Critically examine the main ideas of the text the following day. Asking yourself questions like how can I use the information I learnt yesterday gives the student a deeper understanding of the main ideas and commits the text to long term memory. According to children forget 80% of what they read within two weeks if they don’t follow the review step.

The ideas here can be used for children of all ages but is more useful for older children who need to memorise more things. It is a more efficient, and enjoyable method of learning.

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Picture books also provide safe opportunities to talk about sensitive subjects. Bunny Pulls It Off springs to mind. My daughter has an obsession with plasters. She often feigns injury so she can get a princess plaster. Bunny Pulls It Off is the story of the Bunny who gets a plaster on his knee after falling off his bike. Being a furry rabbit he avoids getting the plaster removed for fear of the pain. This nicely illustrated story provides an opportunity for us to discuss the folly of wearing plasters.

But most of all Picture books are made for children of all ages, are fun to read together, or on their own.