Picture Walk Preview for Early Readers | Still Playing School

Picture Walk Preview for Early Readers

Prior to reading, early and veteran readers alike should preview a book by taking a picture walk. What is a picture walk? Why is it important?

As adults we preview a book we'd potentially like to read by skimming the summary on the back cover or inside the dust jacket flap. Children learning to read should be introduced to this same skill by taking a picture walk before reading to predict the subject of text.

Today we were about to read a new to us Barefoot Books board book Cow in the Cabbage Patch. Before reading I asked our preschooler E to tell me what the book was about.

"I don't know. I can't read it," she challenged.

"What can you do?" I asked her? She explained that she could look at the cover and see if she could read any words in the title. She was demonstrating her knowledge of visual aspects of the text as well as identifying concepts of print. 

I elaborated on her ideas, "We can also look at the pictures. We can talk about what we think is happening. This is called a picture walk."

Soon she and her toddler brother and I were engaged in an enthusiastic conversation about the story. In the text, the animals are all in the wrong places of the farm so the farmer and his wife need to gather them back to return them to their homes.

Just as adults use context clues to read unfamiliar text, children use illustrations to help them decode tricky words. Please don't ever cover the pictures of a book when asking a young child to read to you!  They need the valuable clues available to them through the drawings or photographs.

We paged through the book together.
We identified characters, setting, conflict, and solutions.
We discussed the cover and the title.
We made predictions.
We got excited about the story.
We activated prior knowledge about the subject.
All this before we ever began to "read."

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  1. Can't say I ever covered the pictures when my son was learning to read-- that's a good thing! I can understand why parents might though, as they look at the pictures to tell the story rather than actually "reading" the words. Never really thought about it, but I totally see why it is such an important skill! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Kristina!

  2. Thanks for highlighting this wonderful Barefoot Book. Such a great way to promote early literacy!

  3. This was my oldest son's favorite Barefoot Book as a toddler. Even at eight years old, he just asked for it the other night. He has special needs and has a soft spot for farms and farm animals. It is also one of my bestsellers as a Barefoot Books Ambassador!

  4. Why is it called a picture walk? Picture talk isnt an appropriate word?

    1. We always called it a Picture Walk as a team when I taught Kindergarten. You can call it whatever you see fit!

  5. Thanks:) I am a kindergarten teacher from India. Just love this article. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Well it is great to have you here reading along with us! Have you signed up for my weekly newsletter?