Using Picture Books With Older Children

picture books

For decades, picture books have added great enrichment to the lives of young children. Parents lovingly read picture books to their children before bedtime. Librarians cheerfully share a variety of picture books during their weekly story hour. The picture book’s interesting stories, attractive illustrations, and portable size have made them a great match for eager little learners.


Have you ever considered using picture books with your older children? You may be surprised to learn that using picture books with older children can enhance their learning too. Picture books can be used successfully with upper elementary and middle grade children.  If you thought picture books were just for the younger crowd, let me share a few reasons you should consider using picture books with older children as well.

  • Many picture books are well written, interesting pieces of literature worthy of attention.
  • A picture book’s attractive and engaging illustrations can also hold the interest of an older student.
  • Picture books can be used to match a wide range of educational goals.
  • A picture book’s short length allows it to be used easily and without consuming lots of time.
  • Picture books can spark a child’s interest in a particular topic.

Now that you know why it’s beneficial to use picture books with older children, let’s explore four ways to use picture books effectively with older children.

Use picture books to enhance the study of a specific genre of literature.

As you plan your next area of study, make a list of picture books you can use. For example, if you’re planning to study poetry, consider introducing the unit with a Dr. Seuss book or two. Throughout the biography unit you’ve planned, use picture books to briefly highlight the lives of several people.

Use picture books to introduce complex subjects.

Topics like slavery and the Holocaust can be difficult to explain to children and discussing these complex topics can be even more challenging. Picture books can be a good way to broach such topics, because the subject matter is often introduced more gently.

Use picture books to explore styles of art.

Each year, a Caldecott Honor is awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. This makes Caledcott Honor books great literary choices because in addition to great writing, they also feature award winning illustrations and showcase diverse styles of art. Read the Caldedcott book, talk about the type of art it uses, and note the artists who use that style or technique. Next teach your child the artist’s technique and then have her mimic the style by recreating a favorite picture from the book. For a complete list of Caldecott Honor books, please click here.

Use picture books to study literary terms.

Pictures books are easy to read, but they can often be used to show examples of more complex literary terms. For example, read Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See or Dr. Seuss’ One Fish, Two Fish and study the usage and effectiveness of repetitive. Try Some Smug Slug by Pamela Duncan to see alliteration in action.  Picture books can also be used to demonstrate and identify literary terms such as antagonist, protagonist, and climax.

Picture books are not just for the wee ones! Though a child’s love for literature often begins when they are introduced to picture books at a young age, those familiar childhood favorites can still be used as children advance in age.  As children mature, picture books can be used to enhance the education of older children.

Have you used picture books with your older children? If so, leave a comment letting us know how you’ve done so.

photo credit: MRCPLChildrens via photopin cc

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About Andrea @Embracing Him

Andrea is a Christian, life long Jersey girl, blessed wife, and mother of three darling daughters, ages 9, 7, and 2. She maintains a blog at Embracing Him, where she writes about faith, family, food, and homeschooling. A former public school teacher turned passionate home educator, Andrea loves teaching her lively trio in the comfort of their home. When not homeschooling or working at her computer, Andrea can be found hanging out with friends and family, serving in the children’s ministries at her church, cheering loudly at track meets and soccer games, cooking up great dishes in the kitchen, and zipping down the highway in her well-loved minivan. Visit Andrea at Embracing Him.


  1. says

    Yes! I love that you wrote this, Andrea! I have used picture books to teach older children in the classroom in the past. I found that they appealed to the struggling learners since the images often helped them understand the story better. This post shows how we should always hold on to our picture books, even if we think our children have outgrown them. No one truly outgrows picture books – not even adults!

    • says

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post Gabriella! When I began teaching with unit studies, I noticed that picture books were often included on the suggested books list alongside chapter books. When I incorporated picture books into our lessons, I found that my oldest loved them just as much as my youngest, but…in a different way. Picture books have definitely enhanced our homeschool lessons.


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