When you work with children with learning disabilities you quickly learn that there are two different meanings to the word read. Yours and theirs. To many children reading is pronouncing every word on the page quickly, sometimes even with the correct fluency and tone. However, when they get to the end of the reading sample, they have no idea of the meaning of what they just read. To a teacher, reading is all about comprehension. Without understanding there is no need to read.
The first books we give our children are picture books. Then slowly the words are added but there are still lots and lots of beautiful pictures. Eventually the pictures disappear and there are just pages full of letters. For a child with learning disabilities when you hand them a book with just pages of words it’s like you’ve taken away their crutches. Those pictures that have been removed gave clues. They helped to give meaning. They helped make connections. Taking those connections away before a child is ready, has a negative impact on the child’s ability to understand the written word.
As a teacher the challenge is finding picture books that are age appropriate. Most schools have hundreds of leveled books for fourth, fifth and sixth grade students. There are very few that are picture books that a student in that age group would want to carry around in the open. Most picture books, available in the public schools are not age appropriate for older children.
There’s an absolutely fantastic website called Big Universe, which is overflowing with picture books for children of all ages. Picture books! My students love Big Universe and so do their parents. . I have one fourth grade student who is in love with history. He has found many fantastic books to read in the social studies category. I have a couple of others who love space and the science and technology category is wonderful. As a teacher I’m able to project the Big Universe books onto the Smart Board and I build lessons around the books. I love picture books for their teaching capabilities and my students love them because they are more pleasant to read. They are a natural bridge to learning that I plan on using as long as quality material is available. Now that I’ve found an endless source, thank you Big Universe, my students and I are ready to read and comprehend!