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Seeing Sense: Visual literacy as a tool for libraries, learning and reader development



Foreword by Sir Philip Pullman, CBE, FRSL
Illustrated foreword by Chris Riddell, OBE

The burgeoning field of visual literacy can be universally understood across a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, regardless of traditional literacy levels. A key tool for navigating digital devices, there is often an antipathy surrounding visual literacy borne out of stigma and at times, intimidation.

Seeing Sense brings together research and best practice from different organisations and institutions all over the world to showcase the role of visual literacy as a tool for promoting reading. It will be key in raising awareness among librarians and education practitioners, promoting aspiration and achievement among the children and young people they work with.

Coverage includes:

  • an overview of visual literacy as a tool for reading development
  • the role of visual literacy in design and display within libraries and resource centres
  • advice for library and information professionals on how to gain greater confidence in using and understanding visual literacy as part of strategies to engage readers
  • a number of practical case studies to illustrate the power and potency of visual literacy as a key tool for making reading accessible, engaging, and appealing for all.


List of figures, boxes and case studies


Philip Pullman

1. In the Frame: what is visual literacy and why does it matter?
An introduction to Seeing Sense

Origins of visual literacy

Visual literacy in the digital age

Becoming visually literate

Cave to computer screen: a potted guide to visual literacy in society

Types of visual literacy

2. The Big Picture: terminology for talking about and critiquing illustration

The building blocks for visual literacy

The anatomy of a picture book

The role of colour

Media, style and techniques

Features of visual narratives

Features in graphic novels

3. The Reading Journey: the developmental stages of reading

The emerging pre-reader

The novice reader

The decoding reader

The fluent, comprehending reader

The expert reader

A framework for visual competencies

Visual literacy in practice

4. Close Inspection: influences and insights into people and processes that shape visual narratives



Graphic design and print

Harmony in words and pictures

Representation and translation

Pictures mean business

A comic perspective

Graphic novels

5. Windows into Worlds: the importance of visual representation and inclusion

Cultural diversity



Mental health


Learning needs



Colour blindness

6. Prize Winning Pictures: an exploration of awards and honours

The CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal

The Macmillan Prize for Illustration

The Klaus Flugge Prize

The Excelsior Award

Regional book awards

International Awards

The Biennial of illustration, Bratislava

The Bologna Ragazzi Award

The Caldecott Medal

The Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards

The Little Hakka Awards

The Children's Laureate

7. Looking to Learn: an insight into visual literacy for information

The power of visual information

Finding fun in learning

Creating visually rich learning environments

Partnerships to create visual learning opportunities

8. A Room with a View: making the most of visual literacy in libraries and settings




Case Studies



Nick Sharratt




Jake Hope is a reading development and children's book
consultant with a keen interest in librarianship, visual literacy, diversity and
children's books. Named as one of top ten librarians of
the future in the United Kingdom's 'Love Libraries Campaign', he has been a
regular reviewer and commentator on children's books for numerous publications
and websites, including leading children's book journal 'Books for Keeps' and
the UK's trade magazine 'The Bookseller.' As Reading and Learning Development
Manager for Lancashire County Council, he designed and delivered a year-long
promotion of visual literacy as well as the 'Lancashire Reading Trail', an
illustrated scheme aimed at encouraging children to read while fostering an
awareness of local geography and culture. He has judged numerous book awards,
including the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, for whom he now Chairs
the Working Party.

'For both established and new illustrators and writers, Hope's book lays out the concept of visual literacy in a way that is not only approachable but useful and fascinating.'
— Dawn Finch, Chair of the Children's Writers and Illustrators Group of the Society of Authors (CWIG)

Dawn Finch

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