Use a book’s pictures to help kids learn to read

Let’s talk about the pictures

The way you talk with your child as you read books together helps them to learn to read by themselves.  Try talking about the pictures in the book to build your child’s word bank (vocabulary) and understanding (comprehension).

Start when your child can answer a question with a short phrase.

Follow their lead.

Choose books:

  • with easy to see pictures
  • with pictures that your child can understand
  • where something is happening in the pictures

Part 1: Build Your Child’s Word Bank and Understanding

One of the best ways to teach your child new words and how to understand what is happening in a book is to ask questions about what you’re seeing in the book’s pictures.

Ask them “what” questions. Like, “What animal is this?”

Wait for your child to think and answer you–it could be five seconds or more.

Repeat what your child says back to them.  Like, “Yes, that’s right, it’s a cat.”

Help your child when they need it.  If they do not answer your question, give them the answer & have them repeat it, “cat”.

Add a little bit more information as you talk.  Expand on what your child says and add some new information or a new word. Like, “A baby cat is a kitten.  Which one looks like a kitten?”

Praise and encourage your child. 

Ask other questions about the picture and expand on what your child says. Like, “What is the cat doing?”   “What do you see in the window?”

Part 2: Build Your Child’s Sentence Skills

Ask your child “open-ended” questions, questions that cannot be answered with just a yes or no. Like, “Tell me what you see on this page.”

Follow your child’s answer with another question about the picture. Like, “What else do you see?”    “I wonder  how…”      “What do you think…?”

Relate something in the picture to your child’s experience.  Like, “Remember when…Tell me about it.”  “When have you felt that way?”

Help your child repeat your longer phrases.

What kinds of books work best?

Books that…

  • Have clear pictures
  • Have a simple story
  • Are not too long
  • Have pictures of things that are familiar to your child
  • Show action and detail in the pictures
  • Are interesting to your child

Some Examples

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo by Kevin Lewis

Corduroy by Don Freeman

Cows in the Kitchen by June Crebbin

Curious George Rides a Bike by H.A. Rey

Jump, Frog, Jump by Robert Kalan

Truck Stop by Anne Rockwell

The Wind Blew by Pat Hutchins

Books by Rosemary Wells such as the Max books

Adapted from and Every Child Ready to Read® at Your Library first edition