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Developing Language & Literacy: Using “Picture Walks” for Learning!

Apr 14, 2021

Written By: Phyllis Berenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, Edited by: Megan Sliski, PT, DPT

Language and literacy development

Early language and literacy development begin in the first three years of life.  Language development refers to a child’s emerging receptive skills – the ability to listen to and understand language and expressive skills – the ability to use language to communicate ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Literacy development refers to the knowledge and skills that are the foundation for reading and writing. Literacy development is embedded within the child’s language development.  Reading books aloud to children helps them develop language and listening skills, prepares them to understand the written word, expands their understanding of the world, and stimulates their imagination.

Mother and daughter reading a book aloud

The walk

Picture walks are done prior to reading the book. Before opening the book, show your child the cover and read the title.  Ask them what they think the story will be about based on what they see.  Then slowly go through the book, page by page, without reading any words. Tell your child that right now you’re only going to look at just the pictures and try to guess what is happening in the story.  Ask your child questions about each picture they see. For example: 

“What is the dog doing?”  “Who is this?”  “Why are they running?” “Where are they going?” “When did this take place?”  “How do you think the story will end?”

This will allow you to engage your child’s imagination and participation. Make sure your questions are vague so that they don’t give away the storyline.  Follow-up their responses with statements and questions that encourage your child to think about what they have said: “You might be right!”  or “How can you tell?”. 

After “The walk”

Once the picture walk is done, start the read-aloud.  Have short discussions about what is actually happening in the story.  You can then have your child retell you the story or “write” about the story through drawings. You can show your child that reading and writing can be fun and a part of everyday life!

Check out the video below to see “picture walks” in action!

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