Why Montessori Encourages Use of Photographic Picture Books

If you’ve ventured into a Montessori classroom, you might notice that many of the books on the bookshelf contain photographs instead of illustrations. Although this might seem different from what we see in other preschool classrooms or daycare centers, this book selection is very intentional and supported by research in the field of child learning and development. 

Check out our photographic picture book, Let's Go to the Mandir

For example, researchers Ganea et al. (2008) conducted an interesting study in which young toddlers were shown picture books with three types of pictures: photographs, realistic color drawings, or cartoon drawings lacking details. They found that when toddlers were asked to identify the objects in real life, the group that had been exposed to the photograph books were most effectively able to transfer their learning. This research, along with many other such studies, supports the use of photographs in children’s books, particularly for toddler-aged children.

  • Connection to Real Life: Montessori education aims to create an authentic and relatable learning environment. By using real people's faces in pictures, children can connect more deeply with the content. Seeing familiar faces helps children relate to the material on a personal level, making the learning experience more meaningful.
  • Cultural Awareness: Montessori education emphasizes the importance of cultural awareness and sensitivity. Including diverse real faces from various ethnicities and backgrounds in educational materials promotes an understanding and appreciation of the world's diversity. This aligns with Montessori's goal of fostering global citizenship and respect for all individuals.
  • Respect for the Child: It’s important to for early childhood education programs to regard children as capable and independent learners. Using real people's faces in materials reflects this belief by treating children with respect and acknowledging their ability to relate to and understand real-world scenarios.
  • Concrete Learning: Hands-on, concrete learning experiences. Real people's faces provide a concrete, tangible aspect to the learning process, making it easier for children to grasp and internalize concepts. This aligns with Montessori's approach of using tangible objects to facilitate learning.
  • Social Development: Montessori education aims to support the child's holistic development, including social and emotional growth. Seeing real faces helps children learn about emotions, social interactions, and non-verbal cues. This supports their emotional intelligence and social skills development.

That doesn’t mean that illustrated picture books can’t support a child’s growth and development! Many illustrated children’s books are wonderful resources that can also provide meaningful and relevant learning experiences for a child. Remember, not all books aim to help children transfer learning to new situations. Some books aim to spark curiosity, invite imaginative thinking, or provide much-needed silly laughs! 


This guest blog post has been written by Anjali Joshi, who has authored three of our books: Durga and the Mean Demon, Laxmi's Diwali Dream Team, and Saraswati and the Stolen Somras.

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