Seeing Sense

Jul 2020 | 216pp

Price: £39.95
CILIP members price: £31.96

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

Jake Hope

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

We navigate and understand the world through visual literacy long before we learn to communicate through verbal or written language. However, this vital tool for communication is ill-defined in the field of education and reading. A lack of shared language to discuss and understand visual literacy and its tools hampers and limits its use and application.

Seeing Sense offers an entry point into this growing field to open up the dialogue on the role visual literacy can play in reading development, learning and libraries. It brings together research and best practice from different organisations and individuals all over the world to showcase the role of visual literacy as a tool for promoting reading. This book will be key in raising awareness among librarians and education practitioners, promoting aspiration and achievement among the children and young people they work with.


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







'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)

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

‘Seeing Sense is an invaluable addition to any librarian or teacher's CPD library. Not only does it enhance understanding of this neglected topic, but the clarity and lucidity of the exposition make this an enjoyable and fascinating read. Both philosophical and highly practical, this is a very rich resource, supplemented by witness statements from artists and illustrators and relevant case studies which show how applying the tenets of visual literacy to library and classroom practice can reap rewards and engage readers. The reader is given a thorough grounding in the technical language of the visual arts, and the deeper awareness of all the processes involved will make it essential reading for future CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal judges and all those who nominate for the awards.’
 Joy Court, Editor of Reading by Reading and Read to Succeed, Reviews Editor of The School Librarian, UKLA Trustee

‘No visual literacy, no democracy. It’s a simple as that.” So writes Philip Pullman in the foreword to this marvellously clear and full account of the role of visual literacy in culture. In our increasingly visual world, we all need to be able to decode images to understand their effects. Jake Hope uses interviews and case studies of those who make, publish and mediate picture books, to show how the very first art form children encounter can be harnessed to help them learn and acquire the skills they need to navigate the world. From Lancashire to Singapore environments and innovations in how to bring children and books together at home, in educational settings, in libraries and in digitally created environments are described and practical advice provided. This book truly is replete with information and insights.’
 Professor Kim Reynolds, Professor of Children’s Literature, Newcastle University, Past President of International Research Society for Children's Literature 

‘The power of illustration should never be underestimated. When you gaze into the eyes of a character on a page, you make a deeper connection which builds empathy and understanding. Seeing Sense is an engaging and compelling read for anyone who wants to explore how pictures add rich depth and nuance to narrative and indeed, tell their own story. It will be a hugely valuable resource for librarians, teachers and all those passionate about inspiring young readers.’
— Sarah Mears, Programme Manager at Libraries Connected, co-founder of Empathy Lab

‘Seeing Sense is essential reading for all librarians working with children and young people, other educators and anybody with an interest in visual literacy. Showing that visual literacy is a tool that is used by everybody on a daily basis and is an essential component to the process of “growing” readers, Hope provides an insight into the many facets of the term in an accessible and illuminating manner. 
With contributions from a host of respected illustrators, authors, publishers, graphic designers and other experts, rich and fascinating insights into the creative process are offered. This is a comprehensive guide to visual literacy, looking at a broad range of factors, including in-depth and fascinating explorations of the evolution of picture books, from concept to marketing; current theories and approaches to developing reading ability AND a love of reading; using visuals to create engaging environments for young people, and an extensive glossary. Showing the importance and power of visual literacy and how it enriches and enhances throughout our lives, Seeing Sense is a strong rebuttal to any suggestion that pictures are merely a stepping-stone to, or decoration of, the written word. Perfect for any librarian who has ever had to argue what constitutes a “proper” book!’

— Amy McKay, CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway co-ordinator, School Library Association Board Member, School Librarian of the Year 2016

‘Seeing Sense is a comprehensive and fascinating study of the importance of visual literacy and the power contained in illustrated texts to enrich the reading experience and broaden both perceptions and understanding. It will be equally useful to librarians, teachers and illustration students; many of today’s most talented artists and illustrators have lent their own insights to what is a seminal text on the subject. Having the confidence and discernment to see and feel the multi-layering and integrity of illustration, and to appreciate that there is more to this than the picture books associated with under 5s’ primary reading experience (though these are extremely valuable in themselves), is at the heart of what is also an immersive read and an essential handbook which covers a range of material. From the human eye and aspects of colour, to board and tactile books, to the role of illustration in promoting diversity and representation, Seeing Sense has relevance beyond a UK readership and will be invaluable to any professional delivering visual literacy training.’
— Alison Brumwell, Chair of Youth Libraries Group, contributor to Reading by Right

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.

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