How picture books can help boost your child’s oratory skills!  

29 March 2021

Delve a little deeper with us and uncover how rich these texts are!

Picture books. When we hear this genre’s title, we are often quick to assume that it’s simply a book full of bright images- ok, possibly a few words, some limited information, and possibly a lesson or two.

However, just like animation films, picture books have evolved incredibly over the years and continue to carry with them far more ethically, morally, socio-politically aware messages, and explore life far more deeply than we have given them credit for.

Many well-known and acclaimed children’s authors take us on a subliminal journey where both parents and child, or adult and child are deeply connected by the hero’s journey, or we adults(in particular) find ourselves nodding as the subtext springs from the page.

As the old adage goes, a picture speaks a thousand words, so when even we find there is a scarcity of words printed on the page, the picture itself can speak to us and evoke emotions, inspire discussion and help us guide our children through the many of life’s encounters, obstacles, joys and sorrows.

We have witnessed the power of narrative through our six years of teaching at Speaking Schools, and truly appreciate all that visual texts can offer. So how can picture books help with your child’s public speaking skills? Check out some of our tips below:

  • Picture books provide a more engaging learning experience for visual and kinaesthetic learners. This learning approach can help boost a child’s confidence who might be struggling to absorb and engage with information from conventional heavily worded texts. If a child feels more confident within themselves, they are more likely to contribute to the discussion, lesson and use their voice to express their opinion.
  • Visual stimuli can often ignite a child’s imagination and provide them with an opportunity to truly interact with the text; hence holding their attention, generating far more interest in reading and ultimately helping them build a more extensive vocabulary, a more sophisticated range of intonation, clearer enunciation and moderated pacing, which all inevitably help fortify their public speaking skills.
  • Picture books often carry very important messages about life, which are a great pathway to opening family discussions but more importantly providing a space for children to express their opinions and broaden their perspective.
  • Many picture books use rhyme and rhythm to describe events and characters, which can help young learners develop better reading skills. Students can use these techniques to identify and connect phonetic sounds, as well as establishing a seamless flow when they engage in conversation and speeches.

What does seem to be clear is that rhythm is useful to us in communicating: it helps us to find our way through the confusing stream of continuous speech, enabling us to divide speech into words or other units, to signal changes between topic or speaker, and to spot which items in the message are the most important.”(Peter Roach, Phonetics. Oxford University Press, 2001)

We have put together some suggested texts and how they can help get those public speaking skills firing up:

Fancy Nancy Series
A series of books about Nancy, the little girl who loves everything fancy. These books are ideal for early primary year students to be introduced to higher-level vocabulary as Nancy often uses a more sophisticated word, followed by a more simple synonym to explain the word further (e.g. “I have thrilling news. That’s a fancy word for terrific and exciting all together”).

The illustrations are spectacular with so many details, colour, and creativity, keeping young readers really interested, while offering lots of opportunities to practice describing skills.


Dr Seuss
Many of Dr Seuss’s books are great for beginning readers as they a ball of creativity and silliness. So many words are rearranged and made up which helps children get a good giggle but more importantly keeps children interested- and if they are interested, they will want to read! The rhyming and repetition in the series of books are key to making them excellent resources for developing children’s speech and language skills.

Also, some of Dr Seuss’s books are a great gateway for discussion of world issues. The Lorax, which, unbelievably, was banned in the ’80s in the US! The Lorax explores the destruction of the environment due to unregulated logging and human greed, driving home a very clear and crucial message: we need to respect and protect the environment and our planet before it’s too late!

The Waterhole, Graeme Base
This incredibly rich picture book explores the theme of drought and how animals are affected by the lack of water.

This text could be used to discuss the impacts of climate change and how our planet is suffering through the journey of each animal and its relative continent- emphasising the fact this is a global phenomenon and offering a global perspective. More importantly, wonderfully rich illustrations make this issue so accessible and far more interesting for a younger audience.

The Gruffalo
A classic children’s book that is so much fun to read aloud and lends itself to role-play because of its simple rhymes, repetitive structure, and fun characters. It also contains great pictures that really help us see how the clever mouse will outsmart those that prey on him.

The mouse’s detailed descriptions of the Gruffalo lend themselves to not only engaging inquisitive young minds but igniting their imagination and building their vocabulary, rhythm, rhyme, and intonation linked to punctation and emotions. Also, the clear unfolding of events used to tell the story helps students understand how sequencing works, and why it important in their own speech writing and making.

Have we mentioned any of your favourites? As you can see picture books are an invaluable resource for many aspects of learning, but especially in the Art of Public Speaking and all that it entails.

Perhaps next time you and your child read a picture book, you’ll take a moment to truly appreciate what a treasure box or learning it is, and how many ways it can be used to help your child find and use their voice!