In Easy to Read books also the pictures should be easy to read. In comparison with other books Easy literature seems to contain few pictures.
When Easy language books are compared especially with colourful picture books for children, the difference becomes very obvious. A person, who for the first time sees Easy to Read books, might think that they are boring.
The aim of Easy books is however to support and encourage reading. Therefore both the book design and the pictures are simple and clear. The reader can fully concentrate on the text.
Reading, text and pictures
In a book with many illustrations, the eye “reads” mainly the pictures. Research shows that the text gets little or no attention. Picture books are important, but to develop reading skills another kind of layout is required, which makes focusing on the text possible.
Reading a page, black and white pictures reduce the impulses the eye receives. The eye can follow a text line from beginning to end without difficulty. We can thus read the text without distraction from a lot of different elements.
Easy to Read books have a page layout with wide margins and much free space. The pictures are placed outside the text or on a separate page. The reader can gather information both from the text and the picture, but without mixing them. The ability to decode both forms of knowledge is developed more effectively, when they can be processed separately.
In pedagogical Easy to Read books the pictures support the story. Visual versions of persons, places and events offer the reader a possibility to anchor the reading experience in the real world. At the same time the pictures tell their own story, which broadens the understanding of the text.
The pictures must, however, not be too explicit. They should not fix the book’s world to one environment or give the persons a specific face. For example in the Philip series the persons are mostly seen from the side or from behind. The reader can in this way create their own images of them, which makes it easier to identify with persons or situations.
Where to place pictures in an Easy language book is a choice, which requires precise planning. The picture must not come before the event in the text. It should be near the topic it relates to. It cannot not reveal surprises too early, and it must fill its function, supporting the text.
Structure and content
Some Easy to Read pictures are created like comic strips. One picture might reflect events from several chapters, especially if the chapters are very short. The reader can for example write their own stories with multiple events or dialogues on the basis of the pictures.
Other pictures show only one element. Their aim is to clarify the text or show something in our environment. In natural science books, the text contains more facts and the reader needs time to digest the information. Graphically simple pictures are then more appropriate.
For all Easy to Read pictures one principle applies: easy to decode. The pictures should also have their own idea and convey their own visual story.
Teacher and illustrator Maria Viitasalo has created pictures for and pedagogically analysed over twenty Easy to Read books during the past fifteen years.
Pedagogical Easy to Read books: Villa Bokpil
Materials and tasks: Edu Bokpil
The project LäsLätt (‘ReadEasy’) 2020 for increasing and distributing information about Easy to Read is realised by Bokpil and Colorit ry.rf. and supported by The Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland.