Front Covers are Important
Careful thought usually goes into designing the cover for a book. A good front cover will hold aesthetic appeal while providing the prospective reader with an indication of the type of story and clues to what they can expect regarding the mood and tone. We know that children will often base their selections on the image on the front cover, but do we teach them to read the clues that the cover provides.?
What is a cover reveal?
This is a strategy where the front cover of a book is covered and revealed one tile at a time. I create a slideshow in advance using an image of the front cover image which is covered by tiles. A click of the mouse reveals part of the front cover.
Why do we use it?
The strategy of cover reveal is an effective way of supporting children to make predictive inferences. Wayne Tennent defines predictive inferences as being made ‘specifically to help us engage with upcoming text during reading. They involve anticipating future events.’
Focusing in-depth on the front cover to make predictive inferences will support children when reading the book as they pay attention to the unfolding narrative and consider whether their predictions were correct.
Predictive Inference Using Cover Reveal in Action
I’m going to explain this strategy using Featherlight by Peter Bunzl. The front cover illustration by Evan Hollingdale is full of detail which will give the reader clues to the possible content. Slowing down the revelation of the full cover will encourage the children to notice small details and use these to make appropriate predictions about the content. Let’s begin by revealing one of the tiles. Consider for a moment what you can see in Figure 1. The table below can be helpful for recording ideas and vocabulary (especially vocabulary that may be encountered in the story). This is an opportunity for the teacher to model thinking aloud to make predictive inferences. We can demonstrate the way that we use the information presented in the illustration combined with our background knowledge to create a deeper understanding of the cover and the possible content of the story.
Figure 1: Tile 1 is revealed
|Tile||What Can You See?||Vocabulary|
I can see a moon. There is light shining behind the moon. I wonder where the light is coming from? I think this is happening during the night
Now I can see a rowing boat with two people rowing. I’m not sure what they are doing rowing at night. I think they are rowing towards the light because you face away from the direction you row in. The light is shining here too – I wonder if it’s coming from a light source? This reminds me of a story I heard where people had to row to rescue someone. This might be an adventure story.
|3||A feather! I wonder which bird it comes from? I’ve never seen a bird with this colour of feathers in my garden or the woods before. It could be from a seabird. I wonder if this gives a clue to the setting? Perhaps it’s a faraway place. I wonder if there is a bird in the story. It could be guiding the boat. I can also see what looks like a sphere. I wonder what that could be?||feather|
Wow! Now I can see the bird the feather came from. What a beautiful bird. It almost looks as if it’s swimming. I think I’ve seen a bird like this before in a story. It will come back to me.
Now I can see where the beam of light we saw before is coming from – the lighthouse! I wonder if the people rowing are rescuing someone. Perhaps the bird is helping them in some way. It could be a magical creature like the kind that are in myths or traditional stories. I know the story of Grace Darling, who lived in a lighthouse and helped rescue people who were shipwrecked. Is this story based on her life? I’m really interested in finding out the title of this story. It could be Rescue or Shipwrecked or The Lighthouse Bird.
|6||It’s interesting to see the title now – feather is the bird, and the light must be the lighthouse light. The author has made a compound word, and I think the bird and the lighthouse must be connected somehow. ||title|
The Final Reveal
The cover is gradually revealed with the title. Sometimes we reveal the title before the illustration to consider what the front cover might look like. The images can be revealed in a different order too. You may want to reveal the lighthouse first. In this instance, working with a Year Three class, I chose to leave the lighthouse until last because I didn’t want the children’s background knowledge of lighthouses to mean they overlooked the bird’s significance on the cover. It all depends on your knowledge of the children.
Finally, the title is revealed, and we can consider what significance of the choice of ‘Featherlight’ is based on the observations we have made so far. Future learning will include an exploration of the words ‘feather’ and ‘light’ and whether the idiom ‘light as a feather’ is potentially significant or not. For the moment, we will summarise our observations and consider what this front cover reveals about the potential content of the story.
Reflecting on the Process
It is important to refer back to the predictive inferences made as you read the book. Often children are told that predictions are when a reader guesses what will happen and that any prediction is correct. However, this is demonstrably not the case. In this example, the predictive inferences are based on the detail seen in the illustration. Different interpretations are to be expected, but they should be based on the text. As the book is read, the reader should be encouraged to review and check predictions. Was this what we were expecting from the front cover? This is a question we can ask as we read. After all, predictive inferences are made to help us make sense of the text as we read. Where the text conforms to our predictions, coherence is established. Where the text veers away from expectations, comprehension can be (albeit briefly) disrupted. This technique slows down the reading pictures and helps the reader attend to detail that could otherwise be missed. Details are important as they affect the interpretations that we might make.
Take One Book
Take One Book is Just Imagine’s resource for teaching reading using high-quality children’s books. Starting with personal response, lesson sequences (made of flexible building blocks) integrate reading skills teaching using strategies that are engaging and purposeful. Inference is woven into the learning experience so that children develop the skills they need in context with a wide range of texts of increasing complexity and challenge.