Did you know that the use of illustrations in schoolbooks dates back to the 17th Century? The Orbis Pictus by Comenius is the first schoolbook to have had illustrations.
Pictures, as we know, are first order symbols that represent familiar and concrete experiences. Words are second order symbols that are abstract. Hence pictures are easily identifiable for young learners. The juxtaposition of pictures with words makes the words more accessible or comprehensible, thus helping young learners become good readers. Consequently they learn better.
Moreover, illustrations delight children and capture their attention. They amplify stories, poems and even informational texts. Pictures are thus a dynamic elaboration of the text. They may correlate with the text or augment it. Thus they act as scaffolds in inducing the skill of creating mental representations and reading becomes an engaging meaning making process. This is pertinent from an educational perspective because, clear mental representation is a precursor to visual thinking, an active cognitive process that has tremendous implications on academic achievement. Hence it is imperative that illustrators, authors and publishers become aware of the significance of the interplay of text and images.
Pictures enhance the academic value of a text by
- Establishing a context
- Defining characters and concepts
- Promoting textual coherence
- Reinforcing instructional content
Here are a few other academic advantages of using pictures:
- Vocabulary enhancement is facilitated through picture word associations:
For example, children enjoy looking at the picture of an elephant. The illustration helps them understand the word ‘elephant’ better.
- Pictures support the development of active reading patterns:
If a lesson is accompanied by illustrations, children will be more inclined to read it completely, as they can comprehend much more quickly and easily.
Pictures help authors bridge time and distance between the reader and the content:
For example, the type of clothes worn by people in ancient times, the houses they built, the food they ate, the kitchens and utensils they used, the games they played and the occupations they pursued can be depicted more clearly by illustrations than by words.