I See You / I Read You:
How School Libraries Can
Foster Reading Improvement
through Visual Literacy
Lesley Farmer, California State
University, Long Beach, USA
Visual Literacy Elements
Interpret, understand, appreciate
meaning of visual messages
Communicate more effectively by
applying visual design principles
Produce visual messages using
Use visual thinking to conceptualize
solutions to problems
International Visual Literacy Assn., 1996
Processing: Text vs. Image
Understand the phonemes of Manipulate visual elements
spoken language (auditory simultaneously
processing) Brain registers a full-color image
Realize that phonemes can be in a fraction of a second, much
represented by print faster than the processing
(orthographic visual processing) speed for deciphering text
Know that a few phonemes can When images are linked with
be arranged to make many text, the messages are dual-
different words (concept coded and easier to
formation abilities) comprehend and remember.
Chunk letters so brain can
overcome limited processing
Decode automatically and
concentrate on comprehending
Visual Information Cycle
Private creation of an image
Public dissemination of the image
Public review and validation of the image
Public access of the image
Private use of the image
1. Task definition.
Based on prior knowledge and experience
2. Search strategies.
Images employ simultaneous analysis, from general/highlights to details
(note picture books sequencing)
3. Locating and accessing visual information.
Males use text to retrieve images; females pick up on visual cues
4. Use of visual information.
Males are more critical evaluating; females see relationship between visual data
5. Synthesis of visual information:
Based on existing schemas. Females: practical, relational, and concrete; males:
Levels of Visual Messages
Sign vs. Symbol
CAPS vs. lower case
Proximity and Alignment
Underlining, Undermining, Bold defying
Color and Culture
Purity and virtue in European cultures.
Death and mourning in Japanese,
Chinese, Korean cultures.
Danger in European and Japanese
cultures. Joy and festivity in China.
Vietnamese wedding dresses are often
Cowardice in Western cultures. Once
reserved for emperor in China.
Picture Books: Children’s
Photographs are considered more real
Real is considered “good.”
Simplified images may be considered
poorly drawn, regardless of the artistic
Abstract images are equated with
fantasy, and may have a connotation of
While boys may process abstractions
more easily than girls, they tend to favor
literal images over metaphorical ones.
Ways to Study Picture Books
Visual content analysis
Critique using artistic principles
Evaluate use of image to give meaning
Comics & Reading
Assist Poor Readers
Connect with Visual Learners
Develop Strong Language Arts Skills
Encourage Unmotivated and "Dormant" Readers
Convey Educational Messages
Stimulate Readers to Explore Other Literature
Engage Older Readers
Technology and Literacy
Expands access and manipulation to images
Media manipulate images to elicit desired
Viewers need to be verify image
Viewers who have more background
knowledge can discern illogical images >>>
wide reading aids visual literacy
Incorporate Technology to
Visual and Textual Information
Encourage group-based visual technology
Use visual editing/manipulation features – and undo
options –to encourage creative risk-taking
Use images as another telecommunications
Have learners photograph a variety of objects and
behaviors, and analyze the explicit and overt
Have learners research the assumptions of visual
Library and Visual Literacy
visual aids, tech
Literacy Topics Using Images
1. Compare how different books or different artist/photographers portray
concepts; determine the impact of culture, time period, status on the
2. Write a story to accompany a wordless book.
3. Create and annotate a personal virtual museum of images.
4. Take the same advertisement, and edit it in different ways to convey
opposing views. This activity is particularly telling during election years.
5. Take photos of the school campus, and caption them. Compare the
choice and captioning of images.
6. Produce telenovelas.
7. Create educational commercials.
8. Do digital storytelling.
9. Show scientific cycles by creating and captioning a digital photo album.
10. Analyze how films depict themes; compare filmatic and text depictions.