Response to Catalano Article

            In the article, Understanding the Visual Language of Picturebooks by Dominic Catalano, Dr. Catalano informs his readers that during reading a picture book, three types of texts are experienced:  the written text, the design text, and the picture text.  These components work together to give the reader an idea and an image about what is taking place throughout the story. 

            When a child first begins to read, it seems as if the focus is on the pictures.  For example, if a child is having trouble interpreting a word, the child is encouraged to look at the picture and look for “a clue” that may help him/her with the decoding of the word.  In fact, before they even begin to read, they must solely rely on the pictures to see what is taking place.  However, I think as children get to a certain age, teachers press them to pay more attention to reading the text than looking at the pictures.  Maybe these teachers view the text as the most important part of the book, or maybe they are simply too focused on making sure their children can read and are not guessing by looking at pictures alone.  Whatever the cause of this concern, though, I think that somehow, pictures have become second-tier to the text. 

            Personally, I view this as unfortunate.  These would not be “picture books” if there were no pictures, and there would certainly be less appeal if a teacher simply did not show the pictures to his/her students.  How often do we hear children saying, “Let me see!” or “I can’t see it!!!” when a teacher is reading a picture book?  These cries for visual aid should inspire us, as teachers, to encourage children to keep looking at the pictures.  Fortunately, as I have progressed through my courses at Bowling Green, many of my classes have encouraged us future teachers to take a picture-walk (flipping through the pages without reading the text) with our students.  This lets the class begin to visualize what the text is going to be about and sparks interest in reading.  Because of the way that a picture from a book can lead children to increase their own imagination and interest level, I see pictures and text walking hand-in-hand as partners. 

            Referring back to Understanding the Visual Language of Picturebooks, Dr. Catalano also addresses how sometimes, in fact, pictures even add more to the story.  I have read books that have an entire subplot taking place only throughout the illustrations.  If one were to leave the illustrations out or discourage kids from looking at these, that subplot (such as a cat trying to catch a mouse throughout the background of the pages) could be lost. Or, at other times, the text may leave out details that can be picked up through the illustrations.  For example, in Any Kind of Dog by Lynn Reiser, a little boy wants a dog from his mother, but, “A dog was too much trouble.”  The mother proceeds to get him a lion, a horse, an alligator, a bear, etc., until finally, she does get him a dog.  This certainly leaves one thinking, “How can a dog be more trouble than a lion?”  It isn’t until the last page that the reader sees the little boy embracing his new dog, and that, in the background, he has left behind a pile of toys.  The lion, horse, bear, and all the other animals he had received were merely toys.  Again, this information would be lost if one were to subtract the pictures from the book.  I think Any Kind of Dog serves as a great example of how pictures certainly add to or enrich the text.  As a teacher, I will continue to show my students the pictures, and I will also encourage them when reading alone to not only carefully read the text but also examine the pictures to get the most meaning, and enjoyment, possible.      

One thought on “Response to Catalano Article

  1. dominic
    6:10 pm - 1-20-2009

    Excellent–your example of Any Kind of Dog is right on the money. Just as some of the article’s examples the pictures, if studied indepth add so much to the overall experience the book has to offer. Keep up the good work

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