Pictures · Reading Strategies

Eagle Eye: Using Picture Clues to Solve Words


Some of the most common questions I receive about emerging readers are focused on the pictures in children’s early reader books.

  • “Is my child really reading if he looks at the pictures?”
  • “Should I cover up the pictures in my child’s books?”
  • “Won’t the pictures just confuse my child?”

These are great questions, and show that parents are clearly invested in their child’s literacy development! So, in a nutshell, here is my answer:

Let your kiddos look at the pictures while they learn to read! Preschool and early elementary children need the pictures in their early readers.

Illustrations draw children into a book. When children are first sitting in a parent’s lap and listening to a story, it’s the pictures they focus on. The pictures help children understand what the book is about. Understanding what the book is about lays the groundwork for questions like, “Does what I read make sense?”

A kindergarten child has a simple reader in his hands and the text says, “I can see a pig.” He knows the first four words, but he isn’t able to decode the word ‘pig’ because he doesn’t know the /g/ sound yet. He reads, “I can see a . . .”, then looks through the word pig and says “p…i….” Checking the picture at this point will help him to realize that the word is ‘pig.’ If he had read the sentence as “I can see a penguin”, checking the photo would likely make him stop and go back to check that word again.

Parents and educators are sometimes concerned that letting children look at the pictures will only lead to guessing. I can understand this concern, as some children might fall into guessing. However, the teacher/parent can quickly bring the child’s eyes back to the text with a question or comment. (More on text clues in my next post.)

As kids learn to read, their brains are busy making so many connections. They need to be shown a variety of strategies to help them along this process. My next blog post will focus on other strategies your child can use which focus on text information, such as looking at the initial sound in a word (“Lips the Fish”). In the meantime, please check out this video for an example of how your child can use their “Eagle Eyes” to look at picture clues. You can also check out this great blog post by Measured Mom for other ways to support your emerging readers while they develop their sound awareness.

As always, e-mail me at any time with questions or concerns.

Miss I 🙂


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