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Visual Literacy with Picture Books – Part 2

By Readaloud No Comments

Empowering Students to Become Proficient Designers: Unleashing Creativity using picture books 

 As literacy champions, librarians foster a love for reading through storytelling. Read-aloud sessions have been an integral part of library classes; therefore, using components of visual literacy can take these sessions to new heights, captivating young minds and expanding their understanding of the written word.

Simply put, visual literacy is the ability to interpret, analyse, and create visual images. It encompasses a range of skills:  including observing, questioning, and making connections between visual elements. By incorporating visual literacy techniques into read-aloud sessions, librarians can engage children on multiple sensory levels and promote a deeper understanding and appreciation for the stories they encounter. Using these visual literacy strategies can help students become skilled creators of art and images across various media to create posters, presentations, websites,  films or any products that involve designing and media.

Visual literacy strategies for Picture Books

Composition and Context

Composition in visual literacy refers to the deliberate arrangement and placement of elements within an image. Through thoughtful composition, artists, and photographers guide the viewer’s attention, convey emotions, and communicate messages effectively.

When reading aloud, librarians can ask questions like :

  1. Describe the surrounding on the illustrations on this page. What is omitted? 
  2. What objects are visible in this image? What is missing? 
  3. How does the clothing of the character tell you about the character? 
  4. How do the placement and arrangement of things in a picture make you feel? Does it make you look at something specific?
  5. Can you find a picture where the way things are placed and arranged helps tell a story or show a message? What do you think the artist is trying to tell us?
  6. Why do you think artists and photographers must think carefully about arranging things in a picture?

All these aspects form the illustration’s composition to create a meaningful and cohesive visual narrative.

Context also refers to the cultural, historical, social, situational, and personal circumstances to which a text is composed and responded.

Colour, Hue, and Tone

Artists use colour to design picture book illustrations to evoke specific emotions, convey moods, and enhance storytelling. Colours have symbolic meanings and can evoke different responses. For instance, red may represent passion, anger, or vitality, while blue can signify peace, harmony, or coldness.

Teaching students to read illustrations through colours, help develop observational skills and analytical thinking as they interpret the emotional impact and symbolic associations of different colour choices.

In black-and-white images, artists often rely on contrast, light, and darkness to create visual interest and convey depth and mood. In black & white images,  we can examine the use of contrast, light, and darkness.

Questions to ask students:

  1. How do the colors used in the pictures make you feel? Do they make the story seem happy, sad, or something else?
  2. Can you think of a picture book where the color red was used? What emotions or feelings do you think the color red represents in that book?
  3. When you see a black-and-white picture, how can the artist make it interesting without using any colors?
  4. How can colors in a picture help us understand how a character is feeling or what they are like?
  5. Can you find a picture book where the color blue is used? What do you think the color blue means in that book?
  6. How does looking at the colors in a picture help you understand the story better?

Text Style

Consider the font, colour, size and placement used in the text. The use of fonts in a picture book plays a crucial role in conveying the book’s tone, mood, and overall visual aesthetic. Different font choices can evoke emotions and help define the characters, settings, and narrative style. For example, a playful and whimsical story may be complemented by a rounded and playful font, while a mysterious or spooky tale may feature jagged or ornate fonts. The text’s size, spacing, and formatting can impact readability and guide the reader’s eye across the page. The careful selection and placement of fonts contribute to the overall visual storytelling experience and enhance the reader’s engagement with the picture book. Use the image to check out these questions.

Questions to try with students are:

  1. How does the font style and size used in the text make you feel about the story? Does it match the mood or theme of the book?
  2. Can you find a picture book where the text is written in a playful or whimsical font?
  3. Why do you think the author or illustrator chose a specific font for the text? Does it help you understand the characters or setting better?
  4. How does the size of the text affect your reading experience? Does it make it easier or harder to read?
  5. Why do you think the author or illustrator made that choice?
  6. How does the color of the text impact your understanding and enjoyment of the story? Does it evoke certain emotions or make certain words stand out more?


Texture in illustrations for picture books refers to the visual representation of tactile qualities, creating a sense of touch or surface characteristics. It adds depth, dimension, and richness to the images, enhancing the overall sensory experience for the reader. Using texture, artists can evoke emotions, differentiate elements, and create a more immersive storytelling experience.

Questions to ask children when analyzing picture books related to texture:

  1. How does the texture in this illustration make you feel? Does it make you think of something specific?
  2. Can you describe the texture you see in this picture? Does it appear rough, smooth, bumpy, or something else?
  3. How does the use of texture contribute to the overall mood or atmosphere of the story?
  4. Does it help you imagine what it might feel like to touch the objects or characters in the illustration?

Visual literacy helps children look at pictures carefully, enhancing their observation skills, understanding visual communication, and fostering creative expression.

Resources to download:



Visual Literacy with Picture Books – Part 1

By Readaloud, Visual Literacy One Comment

In the world of literature, picture books hold a special place. Combining narratives with visually stunning illustrations. These images have the power to ignite imagination and instill a love for reading in young minds.

The joy of reading is complete when the wealth of information is married to visuals. This is based on the Constructivism approach, where the students construct new understanding when reading a story. When students read, they are engaged in understanding the story through text, and then analyzing visuals becomes a part of their new knowledge through keen observation and inferences.

Visual Literacy Is Analytical Thinking

Reading visuals, or analysing illustrations, is a valuable skill that goes hand in hand with reading comprehension. Just as we dissect the words on a page to uncover deeper meanings, exploring the visual elements of a picture book opens up a world of possibilities for critical thinking, collaboration, and attention to detail.

Visual literacy, the ability to interpret and make meaning from images, is a fundamental skill in today’s increasingly visual society. By engaging with the visual aspects of picture books, students enhance their understanding of the story and develop essential skills that can be applied across various disciplines.

Benefits of Visual Thinking
When we delve into the techniques of analyzing visual texts, we empower our students
– To think critically
– Ask questions beyond what meets the eye
– Sharing ideas and discussing the images leads to collaboration
– Keen observation
– Analytical thinking
– Learning how to create visuals

Here is a list of different strategies to help you teach and learn about visuals in picture books.

Different strategies to analyze visuals are identifying allegory, angles, body language, composition, colour, hue, and tone.
Using these strategies, librarians provide students with the tools to unlock the hidden layers of meaning in the illustrations they encounter.

1 Allegory in visual literacy

Fig 1

Allegory is a powerful storytelling technique where a story or visual image contains a hidden or symbolic meaning beyond its literal meaning. Allegory sometimes uses personification, giving humans shape to abstract concepts, and can be seen as an extended metaphor. Picture books are rich with examples of allegorical illustrations. For instance, a tree that represents growth and wisdom or a mirror reflecting self-discovery and identity. These visual cues give readers additional layers of meaning and invite them to engage in critical thinking. Allegory invites readers to explore the realms of imagination and symbolism, adding richness and complexity to their reading experience for older students.
For example:
– A Lone Star. A concise reflective metaphor about a poor little star. However, it can be a metaphor for a child:
– Thunder Storm can be an allegory to life,

2. Angles a visual strategy

Fig 2. Image Credit: @Niloufer

Angle is the second technique in analyzing visual texts; different angles play an important role in conveying a specific point of view. Angles are carefully chosen by illustrators to shape the viewer’s perception and evoke particular emotions or reactions. For example, low-angle shots, where the camera is positioned below the subject and looks upwards, create a sense of power and dominance. This angle makes the subject appear larger and more imposing, emphasizing their authority or strength.

Fig 3

On the other hand, eye-level positioning establishes a sense of equality and connection between the viewer and the subject. It allows readers to identify with the characters, immersing themselves in the story and fostering empathy. Picture book illustrations utilize angles to create meaning. This is a high-angle image that may give the symbol of courage and power.

By recognizing and analyzing the effects of different angles in picture books, readers develop a critical eye for visual storytelling. They become attuned to the intentional choices made by illustrators and gain a deeper appreciation for the impact of perspective in shaping meaning and interpretation.

Example: The angle in Fig 3 picture above indicates the power between the mother and the child and yet the closeness unlike Fig. 1

The second picture in Fig 3 indicates the closeness of the two characters as well as symbolizing an equal relationship; the positioning gives a sense of equality and connection of the two women.

Fig 4

The illustrator uses the low-angle shot/view in Fig 4. It gives the reader a glimpse into the cooked food (Poha).

3. Body Language and Gaze are other visual techniques:

Fig 5

When analyzing visual texts, paying attention to body language and gaze in picture book illustrations provides valuable insights into characters’ attitudes, emotions, and the overall narrative. Facial expressions, gestures, and body positions serve as powerful cues that reveal characters’ inner thoughts and feelings. A wide smile might convey happiness, while a furrowed brow could indicate worry or confusion. Open arms might signify welcome and warmth, while crossed arms may suggest defensiveness. By closely observing these subtle details, readers can better understand the characters’ personalities and motivations. Equally important is the direction of the character’s gaze. Where characters are looking can convey their focus, interests, and relationships. A character looking directly at another might indicate engagement or connection, while averted eyes could imply shyness or guilt. The characters’ gaze toward particular objects or elements in the illustration can also provide clues about essential plot points or themes.

Observe the gaze of the people audience on the main character. It is full of fear, some filled with awe and others with laughter. What might that tell you about the main character, or what might that tell you about the audience in the picture?

Fig 6

In the title of the picture book Kesar and the Lullaby Birds Fig 6, ask students to look at the characters’ gaze. Where is the mother’s gaze? What is she feeling? What is her mood? Where is the man’s gaze? Where is the child’s gaze? Tell me something about the character’s personality. (The father’s gaze is endearing, yet he has a questioning expression while looking at the baby. Mother seems tired and ready to go to bed. Her relationship shows warmth and an open, loving relationship in the family. The little child’s gaze is towards the father with a questioning look)

Visual analysis is taught in middle and high school; learning to analyze visuals with younger students helps students think deeply and learn to look for elements beyond the surface level.

More resources on this LINK