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Reading Pictures with Struggling Readers

Written by Rebecca

February 11, 2021

Using images to build reading comprehension.


Images add more information to the vocabulary word because they refer to what the word actually is.

Teaching your child how to read is a marathon. You might be feeling overwhelmed at times or even at ease. Whatever the case, it is important to keep pushing and believing that your child will attain the skills to be a successful literate individual. Visuals brought an added feature to the conversation and uplifted stories when I was teaching. The use of imagery can be a critical asset when breaking down complex topics.

Ultimatly, we live in a visual world, and integrating visual literacy skills can assist your struggling reader to read. Think about all of the people who use visuals in their lives: Deaf or Hard of Hearing, painters, photographers, software developers, UI/UX professionals, and so many more. Images support these individuals everyday. So when you are transitioning from books with many images to a few, think about how you can continue utilizing images to make your reader blossom.

I am sharing information from this study ,Avgernou & Petterson (2011), Toward a Cohesive Theory of Visual Literacythey describe visually literacy as: Visual Perception, Visual Language, Visual Learning, Visual Thinking, and Visual Communication.


Images are produced from the artist’s perception. So a visual reader needs to learn how to describe, explain, and provide evidence for their thinking. The intent on teaching visual literacy is to use vocabulary, awareness about the image, and connections to the world around them.

Planning Theory into Practice

Start by being comfortable and using materials that interest your reader.

For example if your reader enjoys comic books then agree to read 1:1.

  • For every comic book, then the other book has to be an academic text. This way you can see how your child is applying their knowledge from their personal books.

With visual literacy it is key that your reader acquires this skill so that they can interpret visuals on other places. Visuals come from the artist’s perspective, their culture, and even intent. Remember to keep this in mind as well.

1. Visual Perception

Prior experiences and image context support visual perception.

  • Tell me what you think about____?
  • What does the caption on the text say to support this image?
  • What is the image (video or image) telling you?

2. Visual Language

Visual language is about explaining the meaning and having a clear understanding about what they see.

  • Explain what you understand about this image?
  • Detail the lines, colors, or graphics
  • How do the colors affect the images?

3. Visual Learning & Visual Communication connected

Visual Learning is where a reader is motivated to interact with images. They communicate with images.

  • How are the scenes and characters interacting?
  • How is the time period portraying????
  • How do the illustrations relate to the text?
  • What themes are being constructed as you read?
  • Can you show me???

4. Visual Thinking

Linked with visual thinking. Visual thinking includes more image specific vocabulary.

  • Do the images make you change your mind?
  • How are images framed?
  • What are the elements that make this image critical?
  • Vocabulary: foreground, background, contrasts, lighting, borders, size, scale?

You can find more in Reading the Visual: An Introduction to Teaching Multimodal Literacy (Language and Literacy Series) 







Pennez means to think so we can empower children to think as they read. We exist because 65% of all students in the U.S. struggle to read by fourth grade, and among African American and Latino children, the figure rises to 80%. We aim to fix this problem with our helpful reading software for children.

Click here to learn more.

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