Infographics for Literacy Development

By Lois E. Huffman, Ph.D.

I’m a big fan of infographics (a.k.a. information graphics). Infographics contain few words; instead they present data visually through maps, diagrams, timelines, signs, charts, graphs, and images. To learn more about infographics, check out these 11 infographics about infographics.

I subscribe to Daily Infographic and receive a new infographic every weekday via email. These infographics cover a wide variety of topics. Some are enlightening while others are simply entertaining. (Please be aware that not all of the infographics are school appropriate.)

A recent infographic had my attention the minute I saw its title, The Book is Not Dead. I was surprised to read that “Hardcover book sales rose by $100 million in 2012.” and that “Hardcover book sales [were] up 10% in the first 8 months of 2013 versus 4.3% for e-books.” I thought the quotation from The New Yorker at the end of the infographic was an excellent summary of the relationship between print and digital texts: “Coexistence is more likely than conquest.”

infographicsOther useful and fascinating literacy-related infographics are at Top Five Literacy Infographics and uis.unesco.org/literacy/Documents/Intl-literacy-day/literacy-infographic-2013-en.pdf. One print resource that is likely to inspire you and your students is The Best American Infographics 2013 by Gareth Cook (Mariner Books, 2013).

Students can use infographics to enhance their understanding of a curricular topic and present what they have learned from their reading and research. Teachers can create their own infographics for use in instructional and collegial settings. Infographics appeal to adults and students because they condense data and help viewers quickly identify patterns and trends.

Some free infographic generators are PiktoChart, Infogr.am, and Easel.ly. These online tools allow the user to make an attractive and professional-looking product, but the ease of use and amount of user control varies with each tool. I suggest having groups of students try a different generator so they can tell the rest of the class about its particular features.

Infographics will pull learners into literacy and help them visualize what they read. The Reading Today article, Visualizing Text: The New Literacy of Infographics by Mark Davis and David Quinn (2013 / 2014) discusses elements that make a powerful infographic and offers concrete ideas and questions for helping students analyze infographics during close reading. Have fun using and creating infographics with your students!

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