One-Minute Book Reviews

September 14, 2007

Do Children’s Books Need Pictures? Quote of the Day

Many people assume that books for young children need – or at least benefit from – pictures. But is it true? Canadian scholar Perry Nodelman writes that many parents and teachers think that children respond more readily to pictures than to words:

“Yet there is no irrefutable psychological or pedagogical reason that young children should be told the vast majority of their [stories] through combinations of words and pictures. Indeed, there is evidence that the presence of pictures in books may be pedagogically counterproductive; in a study of young children beginning to learn to read, the psychologist S. Jay Samuels confirmed his hypothesis ‘that when pictures and words are presented together, the pictures would function as distracting stimuli and interfere with the acquisition of reading responses’… and presumably, therefore, of the story information that texts convey. Given the opportunity, as were most children prior to the last century and as some modern children in developing countries still are, many young children find it possible to enjoy listening to or reading books without illustrations.”

Perry Nodelman in Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Picture Books (University of Georgia Press, 1988). Words About Pictures is an excellent reference book for critics, scholars and others and perhaps the best available study of the relationship between words and pictures in children’s picture books.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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