One of the greatest challenges, is selecting the most suitable picturebook for a specific class. Children may have limited English-language skills but possess ideas, concepts and aspirations relevant to their developmental age. Real success depends on having the right picturebook for the linguistic and cognitive ability and interests of the children in order to maximise their enjoyment, involvement and learning. Furthermore, picturebooks operate on many levels satisfying children of different ages and English levels so it is difficult to give definitive indications regarding age-level suitability. Success will depend on how tasks are designed to match the interests and abilities of your learner.
- Decide whether you are going to use a picturebook as your main teaching resource or as a supplement to complement your existing teaching materials. Depending on this, decide how long you will spend using the picturebook. This will help you ….
- Decide what your main teaching and learning objectives are, how these link to what the children already know (English language and theme) and what the main outcomes will be, eg, acting out the story, researching for a project related to the theme of the story, making a personalized version of the book, etc. How will the picturebook contribute to these learning objectives and outcomes and develop multiliteracies (visual, emotional, cultural, nature, digital literacy etc.).
- Ensure that you like the picturebook and can convey enthusiasm for it. Will your class enjoy it and learn from it? Will it hold the children’s concentration?
- Does the peritext (front and back covers, endpapers, title pages etc.) allow for prediction of content and help children make connections?
- Is the language and content in the picturebook linguistically and cognitively accessible to your class? Does the picturebook contain repetition to encourage children to acquire and transfer useful phrases? Does it contain any cumulative content allowing for predictions and confirmations – or surprises? Does it provide opportunities for children to participate eg by repeating key phrases, refrains, predicting and confirming, inferring, responding?
- Does the picturebook offer children a broader view of the world and develop an awareness of global issues such as environmental and ecological issues; equality, diversity and inclusion; human rights; tolerance; intercultural understanding, etc? Does the picturebook help children become aware of and question important values? Are these acceptable to you and your class?
- Does the picturebook provide opportunities for making links to other areas of the curriculum?
- How do the illustrations and the words interact with each other? Do they synchronise, showing and telling similar information, or do the verbal and visual texts show and tell different parts of the narrative? Which will offer the most valuable learning outcomes for your class?
- Do the illustrations develop artistic appreciation and visual literacy? Does the layout and design (split page/life the flap/cut-away pages/double-page spreads/lettering etc) support understanding and maximise interaction with the picturebook?
- Does the picturebook provide opportunities for follow-up and extension work?
For further guidelines on selecting picturebooks see page 19 of Tell it Again!