3 Ways to Use Picture Books to Help Your Child Learn

We talk a lot in this blog about how important it is to read to young children, and how important reading is to doing well in school as children get older. When children first enter school they begin learning to read, and after a few years, they must read to learn. But reading for academic purposes aside, kids can learn a lot from reading books, and there are many ways you can embed even more learning through reading with a child, above and beyond just reading the words on the page.

When we talk about embedding learning, we just mean that we are adding additional learning into an already existing activity, such as: reading, cooking a meal, going for a walk, riding on public transportation, grocery shopping, brushing teeth… pretty much any activity that doesn’t need your full attention can be used as a sneaky way to add in extra learning!

There is so much you are probably already teaching your child through embedded learning that you don’t even realize. I bet you have unknowingly already done this while cooking or doing chores in the last week. When you label, explain, or discuss ideas like: more than/less than, identifying shapes, counting and sorting items, measurement in recipes, and using prepositions like under, behind, next to, or in front of, when giving directions, you’re teaching and practicing foundational math and early literacy skills. Pretty cool!

Since we’re focusing on the wonderful world of picture books this month on the KITS blog, let’s talk about some embedded learning ideas that work well with books that also have pictures. Another advantage to using embedded learning strategies while reading with your young child is that it usually makes reading more engaging and interesting because you are involving your child in the process. AND it just might make it easier for that squirmy four-year-old to pay attention and listen for longer.

3 Simple Ways to Embed Learning In Picture Books:

  1. Naming what you see on the page. Increasing children’s vocabulary is one of the important benefits of reading that leads to long-term success. By pairing labels with the pictures in a book, you are increasing young children’s vocabulary and understanding of the world.


  • Counting items: “I see 3 birds in the tree, one, two, three.”
  • Recognizing letters: “This page starts with a big letter “G” right here. Do you see the letter ‘S’ that starts your name?”
  • Labeling colors and shapes: “There is a blue square next to the orange circle,” and “I see lots of different colored cupcakes, pink, red, yellow, and orange.”
  • Feelings and facial expressions: “She looks angry. Her forehead is wrinkled, and her eyebrows are pulling together, her mouth is turning down on the sides, and she is squeezing her fists.
  • Labeling places, characters, and things: “There is the lighthouse. It shines light out of the top, and it’s right next to the ocean.”

2. Commenting or asking questions. Not only will this engage your child in the book, but it will help them develop the skills of processing and thinking about what they are reading.


  • Asking your child about what’s happening: “Sounds like they want to dig a big hole in the ground, what do you think they will do? Do you see anything in the picture they might use to dig with?”
  • What might happen next: “Uh-oh, they are jumping on the bed even though their mom told them not to, what do you think might happen next?”
  • Rhyming words: “Did you hear that? I read, cat and hat, those words rhyme because they end the same. Did you hear another word that rhymes with cat or hat?”
  • Why something happened: “Why do you think the frog felt sad?” or “Why was the bear so hungry?”

3. Adding to, or expanding on the story. This can increase children’s critical thinking skills during reading as well, and it is a fantastic way to teach and practice social and emotional skills, handling difficult or frustrating situations, and building perspective taking.


  • Comparing characters in the story: “What does the mouse want to do with the ice cream? Does the bear want to do the same thing?”
  • Expanding on the content, relate the story to your child: “John was so angry at his friend for doing that. Have you ever been so angry at one of your friends? What did you do?”
  • What if a character did something different: “Uh-oh, was that a friendly thing to do? How do you think her friends felt? What do you think she could do instead?”

Stay tuned for next week when we will focus more on embedding social and emotional learning through reading! We love finding fun and engaging ways to maximize learning in everyday activities. What are your go-to ways of embedding learning while reading, or through other activities? We’d love to hear your ideas!

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Image: © Dushyant Kumar Thakur | Dreamstime.com

Text: © The KITS Program



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