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  • Writer's pictureLisa Norris


Updated: May 4, 2018

OK! So I have an admission to make. I still buy picture books! Even now, long after most of my children have moved beyond that age, where it’s deemed a suitable reading level.

Recent purchases have included the magnificent Swan Lake by Anne Spudvilas for my Miss Eleven year old who “loved, loved it” and the stunning The Worm and the Bird by Coralie Bickford-Smith. That last one was purely for my own pleasure! Apparently though, I am not alone in my love, as an adult, for picture books and children’s literature! Our shelves are bursting with the powerful works of Shaun Tan, the whimsical, delightful books from Alison Lester and Chris Riddell’s linear drawings adorns our walls as well as our shelves! Picture books are certainly celebrated in our home!

For myself and to some extent, my creative Miss Eleven, picture books often represent a really affordable artform. Illustrations are bound by all the same elements and principles that are executed in fine art works. However, they come with the additional benefits of a narrative or story that unfolds over many pages and that can be joyfully shared with our young ones. Furthermore, these picture books bring about endless possibilities to introduce our youth to visual literacy skills. We are living in a visually dominated world, so being visually literate, without a doubt, is one of the critical skills that our young ones need to negotiate the 21st century.

What is Visual Literacy?

Here is a definition by dportelli published (2012) by The State Library of Victoria in a slideshare.

“The ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image. Visual literacy is based on the idea that pictures can be “read” and that meaning can be communicated through a process of reading.”

Picture books are not merely a stepping stone into more complex literature, they stand alone as a very powerful literacy form of their own. Not only do these magical texts nourish the soul but they have the ability to capture our young ones imagination, engage their inquisitive minds and elevate critical thinking and learning.

“Pictures and visuals need to be interpreted, not just seen” (Kumar, 2018).

Becoming visually literate is a process that moves us from being a passive consumer of images to someone that can fluently interpret an image and ultimately be able to compose and construct visual texts. Without this understanding and these skills, our youth limit their ability to express themselves through the many educational and work tools that use visual language. In both educational and recreational contexts, young people are composing documentaries and clips, developing mind maps and presentations, constructing blogs and websites and amplifying their online presence. All these applications require visual literacy skills!

This is just today ... imagine tomorrow’s world?

"Kissed by the Moon" by Alison Lester 2013

Picture books will always be a source of joy and wonderment for children and for the parents and adults reading with them. Children, learn more effectively when they are enjoying themselves, so we can take advantage of that, and introduce a few questions, that may open up another layer of conversation and learning.

Here is a guide to some questions, based on the elements of design, that can promote visual literacy skills.

The questions are not intended to be used all at the same time but guide you to build upon your visual vocabulary.

I would love to hear your thoughts!

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2 commentaires

Lisa Norris
Lisa Norris
24 mai 2018

Thanks for your feedback Susan. 'Visual Thinking Strategies' have a lot of potential and it is interesting to see where these strategies are being adopted. I was at floor talk on artist books at my regional gallery last night and was talking to the educational officer there. They have now begun monthly VTS sessions with a view to take it further into schools. Some exciting opportunities for our schools!


Susan Stephenson
Susan Stephenson
24 mai 2018

That infographic is BRILLIANT, Lisa! Thanks so much for helping me expand my own skills in visual literacy by giving me some questions and concepts to think about. I now want to discover more about VTS, at the very least.

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