A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

How many times have you watched your child choose a book and then pore over the illustrations? When you look at a children's book, the illustrations can make the story come magically alive. The photographs, drawings, and paintings stimulate children's imaginations and get them thinking about the story in new ways.

Children often enjoy studying the pictures and illustrations in books even before they can read. This activity isn't just entertaining — it is an important step in a child's literacy development. Looking at the pictures of a book prepares a child to become a reader by:

  • helping him to understand the basic structure of books and stories
  • encouraging him to use his imagination
  • allowing him develop oral language skills
  • giving him the opportunity to make up stories with you.

For some suggestions on how to use picture books to engage your child when reading together, take a look at the activities below.

Using wordless picture books can help improve children's language skills and spark their imaginations.

What You Need

What to Do

The first activities in the list below work well with younger children. As your child grows older, the later activities let him do more. But keep doing the first ones as long as he enjoys them.

  • Look through the whole picture book with your child.
  • Ask him what he thinks the story is about.
  • Tell the story together by talking about each page as each of you sees it, and asking your child what he thinks is happening in the story.
  • Ask your child to identify objects, animals, or people on each page.
  • Talk with him about the pictures, and ask him if he thinks that they are like real life.
  • Have your child tell another child or family member a story using a wordless picture book. Doing this will make him feel like a "reader" and will encourage him to continue learning to read.
  • Have your child create his own picture book with his drawings or pictures that you help him cut from magazines.

The next time you are at the library, look for some wordless books and give these activities a try. You will see how much fun you can have while preparing your child to become a successful reader!


This article is adapted from Helping Your Child Become a Reader, published by the U.S. Department of Education in 2005.


You are welcome to print copies or republish materials for non-commercial use as long as credit is given to Colorín Colorado and the author(s). For commercial use, please contact [email protected].
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