Picture This: Visual Literacy as a Pathway to Character Understanding


  • Lori Ann Prior,

  • Angeli Willson,

  • Miriam Martinez


The literary element of character is critical to literary meaning-making, and in picturebooks images provide information important to understanding characters. This manuscript shares results of an investigation that explored the kinds of pictorial information young children use to gain insights into the characters and provide practical ways teachers can extend their own as well as children's engagement with visual text. Following read alouds of three picturebooks, second graders were shown pre-selected illustrations from the books and interviewed. Insights gained suggest children are aware of important visual information and use certain types of visual information to understand character. Yet, many children were not attuned to several intentional visual devices used by illustrators. Therefore, teachers have important work to do in fostering children's visual literacy. Teachers must value, draw attention to, and explore illustrations and artistic devices illustrators utilize to facilitate visual literacy and character development.