Slice of Life Story Day 15 Celebrating Words and Pictures When Reading Aloud
In picture story books the details of the illustrations create a cohesive picture that informs the reader in ways that the text alone can ever hope to do and for this reason it is important to teach students to read all around the page. Today. I was reading Anthony Browne’s wonderful picture story book , ‘Piggybook’ and I marvelled at the way the children seated before me listened and looked with obvious intent. Their enthusiasm for searching out all the details on the page inspired me to greater efforts with my read aloud. I savoured every word as it poured from my mouth. When we read to students we are performing a special craft. I found myself well and truly in the zone.
Anthony Browne’s book tells the story of the Piggott family. Mrs Piggott becomes tired of being treated like a domestic drudge by her unappreciative husband and sons. Without warning she leaves them to fend for themselves. That’s when the Piggott men undergo a most extraordinary transformation in their attitude as well as their physical dimensions. The clever illustrations show the gradual metamorphosis of the characters and their surroundings as the story unfolds. From the front cover illustration there is the symbolism of the mother effectively carrying the whole family. Rich discussion developed around this before I even began reading. Predictions and questions readily came from the think-pair- share that took place before I launched into my reading role.
As I continued reading I was taken by the faces of the students before me. Their eyes alive and alert, looking for clues and signs as I revealed each amazing illustration. The link between words and pictures was so cleverly interwoven with porcine references littered through the text.
‘When is Mum coming home?’ the boys squealed after another horrible meal.
‘How should I know.’ Mr Piggott grunted.
- And later, ‘Well just have to root around and find some scraps,’ snorted Mr Piggott.
The students were clearly indignant regarding Mrs Piggott’s treatment.
‘They’re treating her so badly.’
‘They are not a sharing family.’
‘They are so lazy.’
“They’re behaving like pigs!’
The message from this text was coming through loud and clear. The children were able to identify the author’s message; the author’s intent.
I once sat under a tree in an amphitheatre in
among a group of two hundred educators as Mem Fox read ‘Hunwick’s Egg.’ Mem held us under her spell as the words tumbled forth. Each one presented -special delivery. Words whispered, words stretched, words squeezed and words exulted. The magic of the read aloud was present in that place. It’s interesting how no matter how old we are, we love having someone read to us. It is a moment I will never forget. Thank you Mem. Darwin
Have you noticed how we read so much more passionately from texts we know and love? Over the last few years, Piggybook has become a touchstone text for me. Thank you Anthony.
* If you want to discover more about those powerful illustrating-writing connections I highly recommend, 'In Pictures and in Words-Teaching the Qualities of Good Writing Through Illustration Study by Katie Wood Ray.
'If teachers show children how an illustrator's decisions about pictures are a lot like a writer's decisions about words, they form a bridge of understanding that nurtures children as writers.'
Katie Wood Ray