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Digital Photo Books that Teach Literacy to Children

Updated on July 21, 2012

Photography for Kids

There are many learning opportunities that can happen with the use of digital photography. The technology today makes it easy to take photos anywhere, using cameras on phones or other devices. The capacity to edit and delete photos allows for practice taking pictures, without the fear of wasting film. Children are able to take advantage of these features and begin exploring photography at a very young age. Putting a digital camera in the hands of a child is a wonderful way to motivate learning, and the photos they take can be used to create exciting photo books, that help develop literacy skills.

The first step for children is to explore how a digital camera operates.The fact that children are so technically savvy today makes it an activity they will likely enjoy doing. If you do not have a digital camera that is kid friendly, then there are ones designed especially for children you can purchase. Teaching children to operate a camera is an opportunity to explore the specific vocabulary that describes camera features and functions. This simple conversation will orient your child to the task of operating a camera, and will also contribute to oral language and vocabulary development. To make the activity meaningful, it is also useful to have a discussion about the purpose and benefits of photography in the world.

Photo Book Activities

Now it’s picture taking time! This is where the fun really begins. There are many educational activities that can happen with a camera. The following are suggestions for using the photos that children take to motivate reading, writing, and oral communication.

Alphabet Photo Book: This activity is a wonderful opportunity to go on a hunt with your child and look for objects in the world, that start with each letter of the alphabet. Once a photo is taken to represent a letter, a page is then created to show the letter and photo together. It is also an idea to include the word, that represents the object in the photo and begins with the letter. This personalized alphabet book provides a meaningful experience, that will go a long way in helping children to learn their letters.

Adjective Photo Book: Ask your child to take several close-up photos of any object they choose. For instance, they may want to take a picture of a single leaf on a tree, or a spoon lying on the counter. Choose the best shots and print them out. For each picture brainstorm words that describe the object. For the leaf example you may use words such as green, jagged, thin, vibrant, smooth, soft, crinkled, etc. Display the words with the photos and create a book. You may choose to use a binder, that will allow you to add more pages when the inspiration arises. This photo book will become a valuable writing tool when used as a reference for new words, to aid in writing projects .

Small Moment Story: Take several pictures of a small task being executed. If dad is making pancakes, then the child could be encouraged to take several photos of the process from start to finish. Choose the photos that best tell the story (about 4-6). Sequence them and retell the story orally with the aid of the pictures. Be sure to use specific vocabulary to describe the objects and actions in the photos. Also, discuss the beginning, middle, and end of the picture sequence in the story. For younger children, it is fun to mix up the photos and put them back in order. Practice telling the story orally several times before trying to write it.

Theme Photo Book: This activity encourages children to create a collection of photos that all pertain to the same theme. Popular themes might include photos that represent different flowers, cars, or even bugs. The options are endless. In this activity, the child is encouraged to do some research about the theme being represented. Once there are enough research facts, they can be written down to accompany the photos. The creation of a theme photo book gives children insight into non-fiction texts and research inquiry.

Math Photo Book: Create a photo book with your child that helps them learn about math concepts represented in the world around them. Children can be encouraged to take photos of patterns they discover in their environment or they may take photos to show the quantity of numbers. For instance, they could take pictures of different objects in sets of ten to learning about counting or they might snap a photo to show a pattern present in a tile floor. More examples might be to create a photo book of analog/digital clocks to learn about time or take pictures of objects that represent shapes in the world.

All About Me Photo Book: This book encourages children to take photos of things they feel represent them and their interests. They may have someone take photos of them doing different activities, or they may decide to take their own photos of things in the world that describe them. For instance, if a child likes soccer they may decide to take a close-up picture of a soccer ball, or an action shot of a game they are watching. The objective is to create a book that tells a story about them. This is particularly useful for encouraging children to expand their conversation skills. Children feel comfortable talking about things they know, so it is a perfect opportunity to help them expand their ideas, and build verbal skills. Writing also becomes easier when it is about a familiar topic. Once children write the photo book have them share it with others, to practice their reading.

Photo Books Foster Literacy

Giving children the support and guidance they need to create photo books helps to promote literacy skills. Children have the opportunity to grow in oral language, reading, and writing. In all the activities it is important that children spend time describing their photos orally, to help build vocabulary and ideas. This process helps better prepare them for the task of writing the text. The support you give during writing will vary depending on the needs of the child. For very young children, have them dictate a simple sentence for each photo and write it for them. When reviewing the book they can practice reading the sentence that they helped to create orally.

Digital photo books are a great way to motivate learning and give children opportunity for meaningful experiences, that foster literacy skills. Constructing photo books also provides them with a special memento that they can return to, again and again, to practice their reading. If the child enjoys creating photo books, try making all the different ones listed... and make sure to recognize and celebrate the child as an official author. If they keep writing they could end up with their very own photo book library collection!


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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      What a great idea! We would give children cameras on our zoo field trips and make a class book for the reading center. It was a draw for children to the center and they enjoyed looking at pictures and the captions we placed with each one. I love your suggestions for the photo shoots of dad making pancakes. This could only bring the children closer as a family. Voted up!

    • Sturgeonl profile image

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      It is always great to hear your comments. What a great idea to give the kids cameras for field trips! Thanks teaches12345.

    • KrystalD profile image

      KrystalD 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      This is a great idea. I find that many children love photography and some even show a true gift for it. I believe all children need a variety of creative experiences and your hun really opens a new avenue for children. The alphabet book is one that really stuck with me and I think I will try to incorporate as a begining of the year 1st grade project. Awesome hub!

    • profile image

      sturgeonl 5 years ago

      I think you are right KrystalD, that children love photography and that some show a gift. My girlfriend's young daughter likes to take close-up pictures of flowers. Her mom frames them and hangs them in her room. Honestly, they look professional...they are spectacular. Thanks for your comments!I think the alphabet photo book will be terrific for a grade one project!!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      What a wonderful idea! Yes I am so amazed at how the kids are using the computer and cameras and so on .... Hahahah I know I am getting older when I find myself comparing 'during my time' thing... :)

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. To all who would like to read and vote and support the Hubnuggets, this way please:

    • Sturgeonl profile image

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      Thank you ripplemaker! Glad you like the hub and I am so suprised and grateful to receive a hubnuggets nomination.

    • profile image

      sprack 5 years ago

      Thanks for the interesting article. My daughter has recently purchased her own digital camera and I like the idea of sequencing activities, maybe we'll take the camera to the ski hills this weekend. If there's any snow...

    • profile image

      Shauna Forrest 5 years ago

      Great ideas and congrats on nomination. Giving students a camera and asking them to take pictures of posters or advertisements they like (or tshirts they wear, backpacks etc.) is a great springboard into media literacy and beginning that critical discussion about the messages given by the everyday texts that surround them.

    • Sturgeonl profile image

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      Thank you for comments Sprack and Forest. I like the idea of using picture taking as a springboard into media literacy!

    • profile image

      Renee Francis 5 years ago

      What a great idea. I will surely buy one for my friends little girl. She is very smart and quick to learn. I am sure she will really love it

    • Enlydia Listener profile image

      Enlydia Listener 5 years ago from trailer in the country

      Great idea...I wish this technology was available when my kids were little. Rated up for useful and awesome.

    • Sturgeonl profile image

      Sturgeonl 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing Enlydia Listener! It is amazing the activities available to children now with new technology.

    • profile image

      Lee Rother, PhD 4 years ago

      As a Media Literacy teacher for thirty-five years I designed, implemented and taught multi-literacy programs to students considered at-risk in part because ether literacy scores are below what is considered 'grade level'.

      Media Literacy includes reading/analysis and writing/producing print and non-print texts. My doctoral research demonstrated that Media literary curriculum has an impact on the 'literate behaviour' of these adolescents. Media Literacy is also very effective in ;literacy development at all ages.

    • profile image

      Lee Rother, PhD 4 years ago

      Hello again,

      I neglected to say that I used Media Literacy in my volunteer literacy work as an approach to develop literacy development with youth in developing and post conflict countries, Africa and the Middle East.

    • Sturgeonl profile image

      Sturgeonl 4 years ago

      Wow! Fabulous work you have done with media literacy! Thanks for sharing Lee.

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