I love the artistry of children’s book illustrations. They are engaging, skillful and an essential component to storytime. They give us the all important supporting visuals.
However, a good children’s book does not necessarily need drawn illustrations – photography is also often a tool used to convey a story.
I have found that books with photography appeal to a wider age group and engage on a different educational level than illustrations.
When my daughter was about 6 months old, I bought two books from our local discount book store. They were Splish Splash and Hop, Skip & Jump by Nicola Tuxworth. I didn’t think too much about the purchase at the time. The books cost me $3 each.
It was the best $6 I think I have ever spent. My daughter is now 4 and I am still reading the books to her. They are also getting a second run on my 4 month old son to whom I have just started reading.
Why are photographic visuals different from illustrations?
While drawn illustrations are great for capturing your child’s imagination, photography is highly appealing to:
- Babies who are hard-wired to recognize and prefer faces.
- Toddlers and pre-schoolers who begin to relate with the children/objects and recognize daily activities.
What to look for in photographic books?
Photography is particularly well suited to books that depict daily routines, activities, and experiences. Children can better connect and relate the story to the images they are seeing.
Good photographic books also have:
- Bright colour schemes.
- Simple images with white backgrounds for contrast.
- Simple and direct language.
- A diversity of representation.
- Pictures of everyday objects as well as children and adults.
While the simple language may be better suited for holding the attention of babies and toddlers, it is a great introduction for teaching letters and identifying words for pre-schoolers.
An example of storytime with a photographic book.
I use either Splish Splash or Hop, Skip & Jump for joint storytime with both my son and daughter before my son goes off to sleep first (my daughter gets her own storytime before she goes to bed later on too).
During the storytime, my daughter often re-enacts what the children in the book are doing. This is much to my son’s delight, who has a good chuckle at his sister’s acting – jumping, hopping, dancing, etc.
I make sure to spend a bit of time on each page for the older child to talk about what they see the children doing and for the younger one to take in the colours and pictures.
I also get the kids (toddler and pre-school age) to count the ducks, buckets, cars, etc they see and identify the colours.
Photographic books are a great way to get both kids involved and interacting with the book and each other. They’ve also been a fantastic tool to teach words, numbers and colours.
There are a whole heap of different photographic books on the market – keep your eyes peeled at your local library or bookstore. If you interested in Nicola Tuxworth’s books (she’s published a range in addition to Splish Splash and Hop, Skip & Jump), they are also on sale at Dymocks.