How to use picture books to improve reading levels across your classroom.

Teachers are constantly trialing and testing new ways of doing things in the classroom, trying to find the best ways to engage and teach the children in our care for the school year.

Many teachers have asked me about what has worked in my classroom and one thing that I will always make time for in my busy program is our 'Picture Book of the Week'.

Why? It's a perfect way to bring your class together and promote a love of reading. You can share favourite books, highlight authors and illustrators, build vocabulary, model comprehension strategies, focus on different parts of speech and so much more.

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Picture Book of the Week - how using picture books as weekly read alouds can improve the reading skills of a class | you clever monkey
I've use a 'Picture Book of the Week' in class for the past few years and it has improved the reading outcomes for all my students.

Reading comprehension levels, vocabulary usage and understanding of language conventions have all grown after making this a regular part of our classroom routine.


For the past couple of years I've used a carefully selected picture book as a focus and made it a feature in our classroom. It rests on an easel for the week highlighting it as our 'Picture Book of the Week'. 

It looks important because it is.

Picture Book of the Week - how using picture books as weekly read alouds can improve the reading skills of a class | you clever monkey

I don't use novels as many might do as children move through school. Picture books have some incredibly rich and diverse language in them and other useful tools like illustrations that are capable of immersing children in other places and times more easily than just language alone at this age. 

They also don't take as long to finish. I love a good long book but classroom can be places full of distractions so shorter works better in Early Childhood. Picture books can capture a whole lots of different things in a smaller package.


Not all picture books are suitable. 
Not all picture book make great read aloud books. 

Some are better shared on laps of parents at bedtime (think 'The Runaway Hug' or 'The Color Monster'). Some are better explored alone when you can take your time to absorb every detail (think 'Journey' or 'What Do You Do With An Idea')

When selecting a book to be our picture book of the week I run through a mental check list when reading it beforehand.

Does it read well out loud?
Do I like the story or the message it is sending?

Does it have some rich language/unusual vocabulary but not too much we're having to stop all the time?
Are the illustrations easy to see when held up in class? If the story relies on small details hidden in the illustrations, it's probably a better addition to our classroom library.
Is it not too short or too long but just right to read aloud with stops and starts?
Will many of my students be familiar with the book? (No one likes spoilers!)

I also give some thought as to what else is being taught at the time. 

Are we looking at adjectives? I might look for a book that uses adjectives well. 
Introducing fractions in maths? I look for a picture book that uses sharing as part of the story. 
Talking about author's purpose? Or maybe you're doing an author study. 

You're always looking for those overlaps. The books that have everything you want. 


Like any program you introduce in class, you need to establish some expectations as you settle it into your week.

I typically read our picture book of the week twice in the same week. At the start of the week I will read the book for the first time. I have found scheduling it straight after a break, the perfect way to settle everyone back into the classroom. It needs to become a regular part of your timetable.

When you first introduce the concept, you might need to explain at this time each week we will read the 'Picture Book of the Week' and it's going to be different than our usual read alouds. During the reading, we're going to stop and start and questions will be asked. And t
hat during our first reading of our picture book of the week, we'll also record the words we are unfamiliar with. We either haven't heard them before or don't really understand them.

Picture Book of the Week - how using picture books as weekly read alouds can improve the reading skills of a class | you clever monkey

We do this by stopping briefly after reading each page to ask my class if they heard any new words. The children take it in turns to do the recording of any new words. Before I tell them what the word means, I ask the other children if they have any ideas. Often someone will be able to define the word or if I have to provide the meaning, I might then ask if they can think of other words the author might have used instead and then why they think the author choose that word like furious instead of angry? 

It's a perfect opportunity to build vocab and discuss the nuances of words along with the reasons authors write the way they do.


30+ Great Read Aloud Picture Books For Class | you clever monkey

Before reading we might talk about the cover - does it remind us of anything? Other books? Other characters? What do we think the book is about? What type of book is it?

Having a 'Picture Book of the Week' allows you to do so much of the modelling you do in the Early Years when teaching children how to read and comprehend what they are reading.

Later in the week we re-read the 'Picture Book of the Week'. Sometimes we might talk about what remember about the story. What happened? What order did it happen? Then instead of recording unfamiliar words, this reading might see you focusing on maths words or a particular part of speech like adjectives, prepositions or adverbs. 

Picture Book of the Week - how using picture books as weekly read alouds can improve the reading skills of a class | you clever monkey

Prereading the book ahead of reading it in class can help you decide on what type of words to focus on in your second read through.

It can be used as a way to reinforce concepts taught. 

There are so many benefits to introducing a 'Picture Book of the Week' into your classroom