Illustrated Alphabet (a picture book for young children ages baby to 5 years)

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Adults and children regularly engage in joint reading with a variety of goals. In this review, we have focused on the use of books to teach children transferrable information about words, letters, science, problem solutions, and moral lessons. Through this review, a few important themes have emerged. First, children's learning from a given picture book appears to be the result of an interaction between the particular features of the book, the type of information to be learned, and constraints on children's development in the areas we have outlined.

As we have seen, certain features e. Children's age and therefore developmental stage also affects what and whether they learn. For example, pictorial realism and manipulative features may be especially disruptive for younger children in word and letter learning where transfer can occur based on aligning surface-level features such as shape and color.

In this domain the development of symbolic understanding may help in instances when mismatches between pictures and reality or distacting features interfere with transfer between book and real contexts. This same interaction between book features and development may not be as important in domains like problem solving and morality where children need to understand and transfer deeper features across situations rather than rely on surface-level features.

However, when children achieve a better grasp of this distinction, fantastical stories may not present as much of a barrier to learning in domains where fantasy serves as a good cue for lack of transferability. Second, there is still much that we do not know about which features support learning from books.

Each feature has been tested only a handful of times in a handful of contexts. While some features, such as realistic portrayals of animals, may be optimal for teaching biology, the reverse may be true for encouraging empathy for animals and nature. For example, children often use anthropomorphic reasoning to explain why trees and other elements of nature should be protected Gebhard et al.

Different patterns of anthropomorhims effects on children's learning may also emerge at different ages Geerdts, ; Severson and Lemm, Finally, the most supportive thing adults can do to help children learn, even more than selecting high-quality books, is to have conversations with them during reading. Adults reading books with manipulative features, be they traditional or electronic, may support children by focusing less on the hands-on features and drawing attention back to content-related talk.

When it comes to choosing information for transfer, adults may use generic language to signal to children that particular information is true across contexts Gelman et al. More generally, effective methods for supporting children in transferring conceptual information from one story context to another are to talk with children about the underlying structure of the story Brown et al. Other dialogic reading techniques such as asking children questions, helping them extract themes, and having them help tell the story across repeated readings may also be supportive of transfer.

Parents and teachers may use our review to help select potentially educational books, but reading and talking together can make any book-reading session educational and pleasurable. All authors developed the structure and content of the manuscript. GS and AN drafted the manuscript. All authors provided edits and feedback. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Psychol v. Front Psychol. Published online Feb 6. Gabrielle A.

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Patricia A. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Reviewed by: Catherine M. Strouse ude. Ganea ac. This article was submitted to Developmental Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Received Aug 2; Accepted Jan The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.

No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. Abstract Picture books are an important source of new language, concepts, and lessons for young children. Keywords: picture books, symbolic development, analogical reasoning, fantasy distinction, learning, transfer. Developmental factors influencing children's learning from picture books Children's ability to transfer knowledge from picture books to the real world may be constrained by developments in their symbolic understanding, analogical reasoning, and their understanding of fantasy and reality.

Symbolic development One particular challenge that children may face when learning and applying real-world information from picture books is that of symbolic insight DeLoache, Analogical reasoning For successful transfer of complex information and concepts, children may need more than symbolic insight. Reasoning about fantasy and reality Children also have the challenge of determining which information in picture books should even be transferred. Table 1 Summary of book features' impact on learning and transfer in each learning domain. Book feature Word and letter learning Biology Physics Problem solving Moral learning Pictorial Realism: Transfer from photographs was easiest for infants, transfer from cartoons most difficult.

With symbolic development , children get better at transferring from perceptually dissimilar depictions to real objects, so should get better at transferring from all kinds of pictures. With development of both symbolic and analogical reasoning skills, children should get better at overcoming this distraction. Tare et al.

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In addition, children need analogical reasoning skills to recognize contexts for application, which may be difficult because fantastical contexts necessarily differ from real-world contexts. Fantastical contexts appear to be most disruptive in the biological and problems solving domains and less disruptive in physical science, possibly because children are more willing to accept violations of reality in that domain. Weisberg et al. The ability to distinguish fantasy from reality may also support children in appropriately extracting information from anthropomorphic stories to be transferred.

No studies Ganea et al.

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Development of symbolic and analogical reasoning skills may support children in identifying information to transfer regardless of the language used. Open in a separate window. Domains of learning Particular features of picture books, such as the specific content they incorporate, or the way in which the content is presented, may influence children's tendency to learn and transfer the educational content to real-world situations.

Word and letter learning Picture books expose children to rich language. Pictorial realism Picture books vary in the degree to which their pictures represent reality, from photographs to illustrations to cartoonish line drawings. Fantastical contexts In picture books both fantastical and realistic, children may encounter new and unusual vocabulary. Summary: picture books and word and letter learning Picture books are a rich source of new language. Learning biological facts and concepts Children's learning about non-human animals has been the focus of most studies of children's biology learning from picture books.

Manipulative features Concerns about the use of manipulative features in biology learning mirror those for word learning. Fantastical contexts Although fantasy may be a much-loved and engaging genre, what do the violations of reality inherent to this genre mean for children's learning and transfer?

Anthropomorphism In an analysis of 1, modern picture books, Marriott concluded that picture books typically present the animal kingdom and its natural environment in an inaccurate and misleading manner, including a tendency toward anthropomorphism. Genre Children may also use book genre as a cue to determine whether information should be transferred to new contexts or is applicable only to story worlds. Summary: picture books and biology learning Differences in book features appear to have significant effects on children's ability to extract and transfer biological information to the real world.

Physics The task of learning physics concepts is similar to that of learning biological concepts in many ways. Problem solving Problem solving occurs when one wants to achieve a goal and no obvious solution occurs to the problem-solver Mayer and Wittrock, Pictorial realism In problem solving tasks that can be solved with some reliance on visual similarity, pictorial realism can impact young children's transfer. Fantastical contexts Simcock and DeLoache's task required transfer of a solution in which the learning and transfer contexts were highly visually matched.

Moral learning Many popular children's characters have encountered a bully, lied, or had bad dreams. Concluding comments Adults and children regularly engage in joint reading with a variety of goals. Author contributions All authors developed the structure and content of the manuscript. Conflict of interest statement The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Footnotes Funding. References Anderson D. Television and very young children. Memory constraints on infant learning from picture books, television, and touchscreens.

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Child Dev. Long-term transfer of learning from books and video during toddlerhood. Child Psychol. Analogical learning and transfer: what develops , in Similarity and Analogical Reasoning , eds Vosniadou S. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; , — Domain-specific principles affect learning and transfer in children. Young children's mental models determine analogical transfer across problems with a common goal structure. Joint book reading makes for success in learning to read: a meta-analysis on intergenerational transmission of literacy. Factors affecting children's graphic symbol use in the third year: language, similarity, and iconicity.

A comparison of book text and Child Directed Speech. First Lang. From beyond to within their grasp: the rudiments of analogical problem solving in and month-olds. Learning the ABCs: what kinds of picture books facilitate young children's learning? Early Childhood Literacy 13 , — Preschool children's use of cues to generic meaning. Cognition , 19— Children's developing realization that some stories are true: links to the understanding of beliefs and signs.

Judgments about fact and fiction by children from religious and nonreligious backgrounds. Analogical transfer in very young children: combining two separately learned solutions to reach a goal. Symbolic functioning in very young children: understanding of pictures and models. Grasping the nature of pictures.

The effect of make-believe play on deductive reasoning. Genre and other factors influencing teachers' book selections for science instruction. Two sides to every story: children learn words better from one storybook page at a time. Infant Child Dev. Picture book reading with young children: a conceptual framework. Toddlers' referential understanding of pictures. New York, NY: Routledge; , 33— Do cavies talk? The effect of anthropomorphic picture books on children's knowledge about animals. Young children's learning and transfer of biological information from picture books to real animals.

Transfer between picture books and the real world by very young children.

Weighing the evidence promoting belief revision through storybooks. Austin, TX. Moralizing trees: anthropomorphism and identity in children's relationships to nature , in Identity and the Natural Environment: The Psychological Significance of Nature , eds Clayton S. Cambridge: MIT Press; 91— Un Real animals: anthropomorphism and early learning about animals. Daily animal exposure and children's biological concepts. Children's sensitivity to the knowledge expressed in pedagogical and nonpedagogical contexts.

The representation of fictional information. Analogical reasoning: what develops? A review of research and theory. Teaching young children a theory of nutrition: conceptual change and the potential for increased vegetable consumption. Anthropocentrism is not the first step in children's reasoning about the natural world.


Mother-child conversation in different social classes and communicative settings. The youngest readers' dilemma: a review of children's learning from fictional sources. Infants transfer nonobvious properties from pictures to real-world objects. Young children can be taught basic natural selection using a picture-storybook intervention.

Learning from picture books: infants' use of naming information. Impact of storybook type on kindergartners' storybook comprehension. Early Child Dev. Care , — Informational and fictional books: young children's book preferences and teachers' perspectives. Towards a cognitive theory of picture books. Literacy Res. Storybooks with anthropomorphized animal characters fail to promote prosocial behaviors in young children. Reading picture books and learning science: engaging young children with informational text.

Theory Pract.

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The function of fiction is the abstraction and simulation of social experience. Early referential comprehension: learning words through pictures with different levels of iconicity. Psykhe 24 , 1— Red in tooth and claw? Images of nature in modern picture books. Childrens Literat.


New York, NY: Routledge; , 47— Animals in books used for preschool children. Publishers Weekly , , 4—5. The words children hear picture books and the statistics for language learning. Young children's spontaneous participation during classroom book reading: differences according to various types of books. Early Childhood Res. Moral theme comprehension in third graders, fifth graders, and college students.

Storybooks aren't just for fun: narrative and non-narrative picture books foster equal amounts of generic language during mother-toddler book sharing. Effects of fantasy contexts on children's learning and motivation. Joint reading between black Head Start children and their mothers. Infants' manual exploration of pictorial objects varying in realism. Infancy 4 , — The effects of genre on mother-toddler interaction during joint book reading. Infant Toddler Intervent. John M.

Incorporating new information into existing world knowledge. Do both pictures and words function as symbols for and month-old children? A survey of instructional practices of primary teachers nominated as effective in promoting literacy. The role of fantasy-reality distinction in preschoolers' learning from educational video. Preschoolers' quarantining of fantasy stories. Learning from fantasy and real characters in preschool and kindergarten.

Kids see human too: adapting an individual differences measure of anthropomorphism for a child sample. Improbable or impossible? How children reason about the possibility of extraordinary events. Get the picture? The effects of iconicity on toddlers' reenactment from picture books. New-born infants' perception of similarities and differences between two-and three-dimensional stimuli. Tell me a story: how children's developing domain knowledge affects their story construction. Toddlers' word learning and transfer from electronic and print books. Benefits and pitfalls of multimedia and interactive features in technology-enhanced storybooks a meta-analysis.

Less is more: how manipulative features affect children's learning from picture books. The medium can obscure the message: young children's understanding of video. Assessment of comprehension abilities in young children , in Children's Reading Comprehension and Assessment , eds Stahl S. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum; , — Oxford: Oxford University Press; , — The animal babies in this adorably drawn alphabet book include a bunny, a jaguar and a quail. They play with jacks and go fishing. They build with blocks and bake pie. Illustrated by Freya Blackwood. Birthdays come once a year, but the excitement around them lasts … possibly forever?

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