When making meaning is the name of the game, which is what comprehension and learning are really all about, then visual literacy should play a key role in students’ interaction with content and texts.
Although I will be one of the first to agree that visual literacy is not only about using pictures and other visuals in the classroom, I am a huge fan of utilizing the interactive read-aloud with so many of the fabulous picture books that are available these days. This can be an especially effective strategy when teaching social studies and science concepts. The illustrations and informative text of a non-fiction picture book combined with the insightful dialogue that is an integral part of the interactive read-aloud process draw students in, pique their interest in the topic(s) at hand, and are effective lead-ins to further discussions and discoveries.
As Harvey and Goudvis (2007) state in their own fabulous text, Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement, “When we share a great picture book through an interactive read-aloud, we immerse kids in narratives about historic people and events. Listening to picture books creates a common experience for the whole class and provides an imaginative entry point into times and places that are far away and long ago. Through narratives, kids are introduced to big ideas and themes or though-provoking questions. . . As kids engage in all manner of responses, they talk, write, and sketch their way to understanding” (p.209).
This text is full of other insights, effective teaching strategies, and resource lists.