What is your method of dealing with children

On the method of viewing picture books

Heinz Schlinkert


Picture books are often used indiscriminately by parents; You often want to read "something beautiful" without worrying about possible content from a pedagogical point of view. It was only the boom in language promotion that made the public aware of the importance of children's books beyond their entertainment value.

Selection and types of use of the picture book in elementary education

The decision about the selection and use of a picture book cannot be based on the book itself. Apart from the judgment about the general quality of a book, the educator will make a pedagogically justified selection and the picture book will be targeted in the Literacy area- Use the area to promote development. This can be done in different ways:

  • Picture book viewing as an individual offer or as part of a project: In this 'classic' form, the book is used as a whole from start to finish.
  • The selective use of the book, in which only individual pages or action sections come into play, can also be useful, especially in the introductory or final phase of actions with a different methodological focus.
  • Picture books can also be freely available to the children in a reading corner and 'read' them unaccompanied. This leads to the children dealing with literature independently.

The situation of looking at picture books itself, with its atmosphere of security and attention, is in itself a value, and one should beware of pedagogical overload. Above all, it should be avoided that in the sense of the 'one notices the intention and is out of tune' a pedagogy becomes clear that is rather counterproductive, but unfortunately already included in some books.

Competence development through picture book viewing

Viewing picture books as a method of professional educational work starts with the children's entertainment needs, but goes far beyond that. As an example of the many aspects of competence development, I quote from the NRW guidelines "More opportunities through education from the start - principles for promoting education for children from 0 to 10 years in day-care centers and primary schools in North Rhine-Westphalia" (p. 44 , 67):

"Children are given the opportunity to

  • to communicate in conversations and to express their feelings, opinions, thoughts, experiences, etc.,
  • To get to know and apply the rules of conversation (listening to others, looking at them, letting them speak, sticking to the topic, etc.),
  • To develop an interest in books and enjoyment of storytelling and storytelling,
  • To get to know writing as a medium of information and communication,
  • expand their vocabulary and use new terms (including technical terms) appropriately,
  • actively shaping the process of appropriating the world with the involvement of the media,
  • Use media productively to present your own ideas and topics,
  • look closely and listen (reflexive examination of media content),
  • to get to know the attractiveness of media as an educational tool for knowledge acquisition ".

Room planning for viewing picture books

Since looking at picture books makes high demands on the child, a relatively protected situation is required so that the child is integrated into a fixed framework and is not distracted. This is also about closeness and care!

In any case, it must be taken into account that all children can see the pictures well; accordingly, sufficient incidence of light and a suitable seating arrangement must be ensured. This in turn depends on the size of the group of children. For smaller groups of up to four or five children, it would be better to sit down with the children on a couch or something similar, with the children right next to you, maybe one on your lap. The physical contact gives security, especially in scenes of the story that are perceived as threatening.

In day care centers you can often find picture book contemplations in the whole group. Here, educators present picture books in a circle of chairs by reading aloud or telling stories and then showing the open pages around in a circle, leaving little time for the individual child to look at them. If this, in my opinion problematic form is used, one should ensure that the images are visible to all children for a longer period of time. The following can be used for this:

  • a different seating arrangement: semicircular shape, possibly similar to a rank with seat cushions and chairs, children distributed according to size;
  • Large format picture books 34.2 x 45.5 cm;
  • Projection of the images with a visualizer or with tablet / laptop and projector;
  • Use of picture book apps and books that not only offer new technical possibilities.

Nevertheless, the typical 'intimate' atmosphere of viewing a picture book can hardly arise here. It will hardly be possible for the educator to perceive and absorb individual reactions of the children in a differentiated manner, to use facial expressions and gestures intensively as a creative tool and to achieve an even participation of the children in the conversation. Since one has to concentrate on the one hand on the book and the didactic procedure, but on the other hand also has to keep an eye on the children's group, two educators should be present in this situation.

Paradox: reading picture books

Hardly anyone seems to notice that picture books mainly consist of pictures and that pictures cannot be read aloud. This is where the text fixation typical of many adults (still?) Comes to expression, which deprives children of the opportunity to explore the world of the book for themselves. There are now also picture books without text, in which the course of the story can only be taken from the pictures. Even if the text is to be read out, the focus must always be on looking at the pictures.

In general, three elementary methods of viewing picture books can be distinguished, which can be combined with one another:

  • Development of the course of action by the children themselves using the pictures, possibly with help (questions, impulses) from the educator,
  • Image viewing and reading,
  • Image viewing and narration.

Dialogic reading: questioning technique and setting impulses

Questions and impulses are elementary components of 'Dialogical Reading'. However, the prerequisite is that the pictures in the book are suitable. If important processes are not implemented in a picture in the course of a story, reading or telling must build this bridge, unless the child guesses the further course of the story by asking specific questions.

Questioning technique

Questions should be asked as 'openly' as possible, i.e. one should not ask questions that can only be answered with "yes", "no", "the bear" or the like. Such "closed" questions restrict the child's answer options and leave no room for imagination, thinking and differentiated language expression. This includes many so-called 'W questions' (Who ...? What ...? Where ...?). However, not all W-questions are generally unsuitable: A question that begins with "Why ..." or "Why ..." requires a lot of thinking skills and language implementation.

You should also make sure that you ask relatively brief and understandable questions and give the children time to answer.

Questions can relate to different contents of the story: to individual persons (that can also be animals), to things and facts. The children's feelings and attitudes towards the story as well as their experiences on the subject of the book can also be asked. Comprehension questions are used to check whether the children have understood the process and the meaning of the story, although knowledge may not be asked in a school-based manner. Rather, there are questions that relate to the logical connection of things and therefore stimulate thought, e.g. questions about the possible further course of history.

In such a context, 'nonsense questions' are also suitable: You pretend to be stupid by claiming something obviously wrong or by creating an absurd context, and then pretending to be proud of it. The child can then argue against this 'provocation', show his knowledge and thus be indirectly confirmed.

It can also be useful to use a doll that asks the children questions, which may disappear in between and reappear at suitable moments and thus motivate them again.

Even more than questions, impulses give the children the opportunity to express themselves freely, as they are very unspecific and leave the children even more freedom due to the lack of direct address. First of all, every newly opened picture is in itself an impulse that may make further questions superfluous. This is why the children are usually given a short time after each page to perceive the pictures and to respond to possible verbal reactions. In addition, the educator can provide further impulses herself to motivate the children to express themselves and / or to emphasize certain aspects. Such impulses can be:

  • simple remarks on the picture (e.g. "It's really dark there"),
  • Statements, e.g. "spontaneous" expressions of emotion (e.g. shock, amazement), exclamations or requests (e.g. "Oh dear!", "Look!", "Great!"),
  • Pointing to a part of the picture,
  • Scroll back to suggest comparisons,
  • Facial expressions, e.g. looking 'angry' or 'astonished',
  • Use of special effects of a book (e.g. touch in 'The Little Spider', crawl through holes in the 'Very Hungry Caterpillar', reflect with the foil in the 'Rainbow Fish' etc.).

Such impulses sometimes only consist of facial expressions, gestures and / or onomatopoeia. But verbal impulses should also be accompanied by facial expressions and gestures, as they are particularly encouraging for children. The educator's imagination is particularly important here in order to find suitable impulses for each book. Often it is enough to just remember your own reactions when you first read the book.

It should be noted that impulses in particular can easily evoke 'unwanted' statements by the children that may lead away from the topic and do not even fit into the teacher's concept. Dealing with impulses therefore requires a lot of flexibility in order to respond to children's expressions, to include them, but also to limit them and, if necessary, to redirect them.

Storytelling and reading aloud

By reading aloud or narrating, the educator creates an atmosphere through her voice and thus a background on which the children can better classify and understand the images they are viewing. You have to avoid monotonous reading aloud in order to captivate the children with lively speech and to involve them in the story. The important and well-known prerequisites for this are only briefly mentioned here:

  • Volume: specifically loud / quiet / normal reading, whispering;
  • Tempo: deliberately slow / normal / fast reading, slower than for adults;
  • Pauses: in the text, between picture pages, to look at pictures;
  • Clarity, correctness; However, deviations from the text can be useful;
  • Emphasis: emphasize syllables, words, sentences correctly, make moods, noises clear;
  • Vocal pitch, timbre: different for different people.

Reading aloud or telling a story alone would not do the picture book justice for the reasons mentioned above; so the pictures should definitely be included.

The advantage of storytelling over reading aloud is that the presentation usually appears more lively and it is possible to vary the text individually. Here the words are freely chosen so that the text sounds more authentic. Details from drawings can be picked up, things can be invented to a limited extent and linked to the experiences of the children; Certain content, e.g. fear-inducing content, can be changed or omitted, and comments made by the children can be easily incorporated through flexible narration. With all of this, however, it should be noted that the sequence and meaning of the story usually have to be preserved if one does not want to lose the 'red thread' and avoid that after a while the images no longer match the story being told. In this respect, too, a lot of flexibility is required of the educator.

The sequence of picture book viewing

A picture book viewing in the classic sense takes place in three phases.

In the Introductory phase the children should be motivated and introduced to the topic, whereby basic knowledge of history (e.g. names of people or animals) can be imparted. The book does not necessarily have to be used immediately; a conversation could also lead to the topic, but it should then better relate to recent or upcoming experiences of the children. The already mentioned doll could also take on this task; the character should, however, be related to the story as much as possible. Often the title page is taken as a starting point, the picture - if appropriate - used as an impulse, possibly supplemented with questions. For some pictures, the cover technique is recommended, in which you place a sheet of paper on the title page and slowly pull it down so that the children can then gradually guess what is probably shown on the page; here the impulse effect of the image is increased. Such techniques, like working with the doll, shouldn't be used too often, because they then quickly lose their effect. Of course, other methods such as a short game or singing a well-known song can also be useful here.

In the Implementation phase It cannot be a question of consistently using one of the three elementary methods described so far in its pure form. It is rather a matter of finding the methodical approach for each page of the book that best corresponds to the image and the text. In any case, you shouldn't bombard the children with a torrent of words every time they open a new page, but give them enough time to contemplate and make possible comments. Whether the story is told or read aloud or whether the text can be inferred from the pictures alone depends on the book and possibly also on special objectives; but you should definitely use questions and impulses. A fairy tale picture book certainly also needs the typical fairytale-like language, which can be conveyed more through telling or reading aloud; However, this does not mean that one should refrain from indexing the images using other methods.

In the Final phase it is essentially about three things:

  • Deepening and checking: It is determined whether the children have understood the meaning and course of the story ("comprehension questions", see above). You can also leaf back through the book for this purpose; Perhaps one can compare the first picture with the last one, think about how to proceed, look at the illustrations in the cover, etc.
  • Transfer: The point here is to dare to take the step from the level of the fictional story to the level of the children's real world. Often this step was taken beforehand through the children's experience reports and only needs to be taken up at the end. But sometimes it is difficult, e.g. to make animals aware of the behavior of animals (= fictional level) as human behavior (= real level) and to motivate the children to tell their own experiences. It can't be enough, again 'a beautiful story' to have heard and then only to ask 'whether everyone liked it'.
  • Implementation: It makes sense - even if not always feasible in terms of time - to implement the experiences or insights gained using another method. This can be a role play, a painting, clay or handicraft activity, a song or a game; the choice should be based on the topic. What is more important, however, is that it is not enough to have something done at random ("Now paint what you liked!"), but it has to be steered more strongly and impulses given so that content-related aspects can be implemented. It is therefore important to discuss the results with the children, also in order to receive feedback on your own approach.


Heinz Schlinkert is active in educator training at the Alice Salomon vocational college in Bochum. Homepage with many links on the topic: www.schlinkert.eu

For further suggestions, but also for critical statements, please contact the author at: [email protected]