As we have discussed in previous blog posts, the words and images in picture books make up two equal halves of the whole project. Whether a book is read independently by an older student, or read to a younger one by an adult, the images an artist uses to accompany the text add another level of understanding-Visual Literacy. Visual Literacy refers to the ability of an individual to understand and interpret images. The term "Visual Literacy" is credited to John Debes, Co-Founder of the Visual Literacy Association.
An artists' choice of images, style and medium all help to further tell the story. Point of view, cause and effect, mood, emotions, setting, features, and age of characters etc., can all be conveyed in the illustrations, even if not explained in the text.
Two exercises I have used with student groups which focus on Visual Literacy are as follows:
1. Pick out several of your favorite picture books. After reading the text aloud, ask students to point out examples of how the artist tells the reader more than is explained in the text. Do we learn more about where the story takes place? Do we learn what the character's room looks like? Do we see how the main character reacts when he meets the new kid on the block?
2. Present several examples of the same story illustrated by different artists. There are endless versions of Fairy Tales such as Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid Ask students to point out the similarities and differences between each version. How has each artist depicted the main characters? How are they dressed? Do the versions show the characters in similar settings ? What about the choice of colors used?
Lastly, chose either one contemporary picture book or well known Fairy Tale and ask students to illustrate the same scene. Have students present their work to the class and discuss how each artist has used their own unique point of view to tell the story in pictures.
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