Reluctant readers hate to read. These are the children who have not experienced much success decoding and comprehending the written print so the reading process is hard for them. They quickly learn to avoid reading at all cost and become masters of using excuses.
Picture books inspire reading and soothe struggling readers because these books are short in nature, less intimidating than chapter books, and scattered with pictures throughout that provide clues to help the reader with vocabulary and story content. I have been a successful Reading Tutor in an elementary school for over twenty years. The longer that I teach reading, the more I realize the importance of incorporating picture books into my daily reading instruction. I have discovered that there's nothing like a picture book to stir a child's imagination, ignite his creative juices, and encourage the development of reading skills.
Picture books are a valuable teaching tool. The story elements in picture books can be simple or complex; the vocabulary easy or challenging and the subject matter and genre varied. What may be most appealing to children and adults alike is the fact that almost all picture books can be completed in a short time frame, usually one or two days. Picture books inspire reading and have become a critical part of my teaching plan designed to hook struggling readers onto the many pleasures of reading.
Children are attracted to their colorful, animated covers and their simple design which is another reason why picture books appeal to reluctant readers who are absolutely terrified at the thought of being forced to read a chapter book filled with walls of words and very little or no pictures. I am always amazed at the metamorphosis that takes place as students gain confidence through reading picture books and change from caterpillars that never picked up a book to butterflies that take off and soar on their own and cannot wait to fly to the library. Picture books may be one of the most useful tools that I have found to build a reluctant reader’s confidence and reading ability. Success breeds success. Once these strugglers start feeling successful, it spreads to other parts of their academics and they bloom.
Many picture books authors, such as Norman Bridwell or Stan and Jan Berenstain, are known for producing series of picture books that involve the same characters. Children love familiarity so these types of picture books inspire reading and are particularly comforting to reluctant readers because the author has introduced the main character (s) to his reading audience before in his other stories. Children then seek other picture books in the series once they have been introduced to an author who writes books about characters that they have come to know and love.
Some picture book authors, like Marc Brown, have also made the transition into chapter books, writing chapter books involving the same familiar picture book characters. Books such as this provide a good jumping ground for young readers, who are already very familiar with that author’s picture books, to take that giant leap into chapter books. As an educator, I am amazed and always learning new ways that picture books inspire reading confidence in children, particularly in the reluctant reader.