Visualization is very important for the educational process, especially in the lower grades. Children perceive images and shapes better than text because of the importance of the visual modality in the early years of development. The use of picture books, graphic novels, and hybrid picture books/graphic novels facilitates educational process substantially. Children develop imagination by using the graphic representation of the topic, raised in texts, and at the same time, they learn to develop images in their imaginations shaped by the texts.
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Graphics only helps in this case to form the images close to the authors’ ideas and concepts. It is especially important to use picture books in the 6-12 years of age K-12 classrooms to support the process of learning of more complex concepts and ideas. Understanding the importance of the explored issue for the modern educational process, the paper evaluates the benefits of using picture books in the education process, ten picture books for schoolchildren of 6-12 years of age, explores their value for the educational process and personal development to conclude about the value of picture books use in everyday schooling practice.
The Benefits of Using Picture Books in Education Process
The word ‘book’ in the imagination of a pupil usually invokes a clear and understandable image of about 150-250 pages of text with no or little images. It is boring and not interesting to children, and it can be understood. Picture books, on the contrary, are easy to read and funny. They are designed to provide a student with as much information as possible and its easiest form of graphic representation. Some texts only support images to explain something, for example, or add depth to the understanding of this image. Texts can also include some important lesson or lessons a student should learn from this book.
Each picture book has one or two ideas or plots, so it is always quite focused. It provides only clear and simple information. The images in such picture books are used to emphasize some main idea expressed in the book. It makes it easier for the reader to understand it and learn. Such an idea of including one or two concepts in the picture books makes it easier for a teacher to discuss the book in class. A short but intense discussion can bring more good than a long and boring evaluation of the series of ideas in a regular book. Children from 6 to 12 are very active, and they require action in the class to learn effectively. Picture books provide such an opportunity.
Via the use of picture books, it is much easier for the teachers to set the certain goal for learning and explain it to their students. Picture books are simple and small, so they can be read quickly, and it makes the process of goal setting for the nearest future non-complicated. Additionally, picture books can set up a common background for the class in terms of knowledge. In other words, all students obtain the same yet basic knowledge about the topic that will be discussed later.
It helps to involve all students in the class to the discussion and learning process. Visualization of information helps students to memorize and understand concepts and ideas of the learning course better. Dry facts and numbers can be complemented with visual materials that facilitate the understanding of the reality behind those facts and numbers. Abstract concepts are better understood if explained using visual forms rather than textual representation. In other words, visuals make abstract concepts clearly defined and presented.
The use of picture books from the lower grades can help to develop better critical thinking skills. Such books teach to see and assess information critically, and when it starts to be done from about 4 or 6 years, students learn to derive important information very quickly. Picture books can teach complex concepts via simple illustrations. Thus, such elements of the figurative language as alliteration, flashback, foreshadowing, metaphor, irony, parody and many others can be explained even to children of the young age. Considering the specific methods of presenting information, picture books can teach young students to express their thoughts in the same simple but clear manner. It facilitates the process of communication with teachers as well as with the students in the class.
Finally, picture books are fun to use. It is very important for the students of 6-12 years of age to be not bored in the class because it affects the process of learning quite negatively. The process of learning something new at such ages should be dynamic, funny, easy going to provide the best possible result. The additional effect of the use of picture books can be the developed interest of the children to reading books. Students should perceive books as something interesting and fun, using previous experience with picture books as the background for such attitude. Funny and simple to use, picture books are an excellent tool for any teacher to involve children in the education process and make it interesting to follow and participate in it actively.
The correct and wise use of picture textbooks can build a solid basis for the success of students in the following years of education. Picture books can become the starting point to the bright future so their use should not be neglected by teachers, especially for the groups of children of 6-12 years of age.
Ten Philosophical Picture Books
Arnold Lobel: Frog and Toad Together
This book is a collection of five different stories that can be interesting to read from a philosophical standpoint. While reading about the adventures of two friends Toad and Frog, children can learn the concepts of willpower, the origins of dreams, what it means to be brave, and so on.
Daniel Manus Pinkwater: The Big Orange Splot
From this story, children can learn about conformity and doing what one wants to do regardless of the neighbors’ opinion. In this story, the man had to repaint his house, which used to be of the same color with other houses in the neighborhood, in a different color because a seagull dropped orange paint on it.
Leo Lionni: Frederick
The story of a little mouse, who is also a poet, tells the children that some work may be more important that another. Children can learn that in families, members have responsibilities and that little mouse-poet did nothing to prepare for winter while his family gathered supplies.
Crockett Johnson: Harold and the Purple Crayon
It is the story of the power of one’s imagination and creating ones’ own reality. Drawing purple moon leads Harold to draw other things that scare and even almost kill him. The story makes children think about why people pretend, whether Harold’s drawings are real and whether realities can be created.
Jacqueline Woodson: The Other Side
The story of a fence separating the town into two sections, the white and black one, tells children about the issues of racial identity and friendship. The fence brings together two girls from both sides of the town. They hope that one day the fence will be gone, and the town will be united.
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Tony Fucile: Let’s Do Nothing
This book is an insight into the meaning of ‘nothing’. The boys in the story want to do nothing, but it is difficult to determine what constitutes ‘nothing’. No matter what they do, it is not nothing, which makes them conclude that no one is capable of doing nothing.
Wiseman: Morris the Moose
This book raises the question of what makes people who they are. Three different animals think others are like them and the same, and they are sure of that. However, it turns out that all of them are different, which makes one think about things that make people what they are.
Jannell Cannon: Stellaluna
It is the story of a little fruit bat raised by the birds and her attempts to fit in the family that is not hers from the beginning. She tries to be like a bird but cannot, and eventually, she finds her bat identity. The story is about friendship and being different.
Jon Muth: The Three Questions
John Muth writes a story of a boy and his search for the meaning of his life. He asks three important questions that help him understand what a good life is and what the most important things in life are. Children can find it interesting to read this story.
Mo Willems: Knuffle Bunny
The story about the girl and her toy that she has left at a laundromat tells about words and their meaning to people. The girl says her first words that are complete gibberish to her father, but they are words either way even if her father does not understand them.
The evaluated picture books are based on the abstract concepts that cannot be seen or touched directly. It may seem quite strange in the context of teaching 6-12 year-olds but ethics, morality, and other values of the same kind are of the outmost importance, and they should be developed from the early ages. These books teach about values important to every human being that wants to develop and grow as a personality.
The process of self-understanding and self-recognition as a person starts ever earlier than at 6 years of age, so the necessary background should be provided to help young personalities to develop in the right direction. These books provide a solid background for making the right questions about ethic, morality, and the world around.
One might say that such books are not necessary to learn at such young ages. They may seem complicated, hard to understand the hidden meaning, and irrelevant to the course of education at all. However, it is not so because the earlier children start to learn what the correct values of a good personality are, the bigger will be the chances that these children will become good people and decent members of their society. The books are written in a very simple language, and they cover rather different themes and concepts. However, all of them have one thing in common since they teach something philosophically, indirectly, softly guiding a child through the situations and relationships to the main lesson each book wants to teach.
The philosophic books should be read at such ages. The modern contents of media channels would these channels be on TV or online, or advertising of somethings are shallow and focused on making children want something material. Toys, games, entertainments, and hundreds of thousands of other things should be wanted by modern children, so there is no room left for some spiritual enrichment.
The use of such books should help a teacher with this problem. It should be noted that it is preferable to provide children in class with the physical copies of the books explored because modern gadgets, yet usable, are quite distracting from them. It is not possible to play some electronic game holding a 30-pages real book in hands. In such a case, children have nothing left to do other than read it and learn something good.
Summing, the paper explored the benefits of using picture books in the education process, evaluated ten picture books for schoolchildren of 6-12 years of age, explored their value for the educational process and personal development, and concluded that picture books use in everyday schooling practice is necessary. The reasoning is rather simple since picture books use provides children with an extraordinary educational experience.
Picture books are created specifically for children, and they consider the peculiarities of the young mind development. The controversy may arise when it comes to the form of presenting picture books since the information technologies can provide outstanding visualization capabilities in class. However, children should learn to use paper books first to have the opportunity to use and develop their imagination rather than observe pictures generated by some electronic device.
On the other hand, the availability of electronic devices such as iPad, for example, makes it easier to provide children with numerous copies of the books, so it can be appropriate to use such an approach to education as well. In any case, a teacher must realize that illustrations (graphic part) in the picture books are the facilitator of the imagination development process, not more. It is just a hint for a child on how to think about something. Teachers should use picture books in everyday practice as the universal and a rather useful tool for schooling process.
Cannon, Janell. Stellaluna. Boston: HMH Books for Young Readers, 2007. Print.
Fucile, Tony. Let’s Do Nothing! Somerville: Candlewick, 2012. Print.
Johnson, Crockett. Harold and the Purple Crayon Board Book. New York: HarperFestival, 2015. Print.
Lionni, Leo. Frederick. New York: Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014. Print.
Lobel, Arnold. Frog and Toad Together. New York: HarperCollins, 1979. Print.
Muth, Jon J. The Three Questions. New York: Scholastic Press, 2002. Print.
Pinkwater, Daniel M. The Big Orange Splot. New York: Scholastic Paperbacks, 1993. Print.
Willems, Mo. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale. New York: Hyperion, 2004. Print.
Wiseman, Bernard. Morris the Moose. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. Print.
Woodson, Jacqueline. The Other Side. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2001. Print.