Picture Word Correspondence in Easy Reads

Some of those Effective and Smart literacy folks from Upper Canada sent us down some equally Effective and Smart kids' books, which we stickered up for the bookwagon.

One of them - A Day in the Life of a Firefighter (DK Books) - offers a good example of using word-picture matches to aid reading.

Do you see how clever that is? Putting the word "helmet" under a little picture of a helmet? I'd expect "attack" to be another problem word, and thinking about that immediately shows why this technique really only works with nouns. Still, it's a smart idea that - and this is key - does not get in the way to the story.

Now, I know some people feel that illustrations "too closely" matching written text leads to "cheating" or something equally dangerous to the established class order. These people are Deluded and, often, Bossy. Leave them alone. Don't feed them. Keep the windows rolled up.

Still, there are plenty of ineffective examples of word-picture matching. Here's another fire-themed example:

This did not come from Upper Canada. I actually suspect East Saint John - but let that go for now. The problem here, of course, is that they left the word out! And, again, you can see that it only works for nouns.

The front cover advertises this book as being "for early readers", but that's misleading...

Take a look at this:

Now, tell me. What is the thinking behind using an image of flames or fire in place of the short, phonetically predictable word "fire" but then using the word "communicate" when "talk to" would have done just as well? And does the fire chief arrive in a car, truck, half-ton, 4x4 or...? And is that a walkie-talkie he's using, or a hand set, or a radio, or...? And don't even get me started about the complexity of decoding two pictures of red emergency lights.

This isn't an "easy read" - it's a game show.

You might see the problem in the picture-for-word approach even more clearly on this page of what should be a lyric or sing-song read:

I'm sure that looked like a fun idea, but it just doesn't work. Each time, I have to slow down to interpret the picture (using, ironically, the words around it as my clues). In this way, the book designers have managed to render a normally fluent reader tongue-tied. Great job guys.

Compare that to the picture-text correspondence in, say, Go Dog Go:

"A blue dog on a red tree." It's not a complete sentence, and not a griping narrative, but I've had people stop me on the street just to read me some of it.

Once upon a time, a storytent worker was listening to a little girl recite another word-picture classic, Sandra Boynton's Blue Hat Green Hat. At one point, she paused and asked, "What are all those letters at the bottom of the page for?" Those are the words, she was told. And then she was shown how each word matched something she had said. That was a pretty neat thing in her eyes, and she started reading these and other words lickedy-split.

That can happen when a book is Effective and Smart.

Thanks Nancy, Tracey and Maria.

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