Knowledge does much more than just help students hone their thinking skills, it actually makes learning easier. Factual knowledge enhances cognitive processes like problem solving and reasoning, and once you have some knowledge, the brain finds it easier to get more and more knowledge.
Picture books can help middle school and high school readers build background knowledge and visual literacy, and they are also deeply engaging. The range of topics presented in picture books, in the hands of skilled storytellers and artists provides many opportunities to explore different paths for learning and getting excited about reading and information.
A Texas librarian shares his strategy of using nonfiction picture books to introduce new concepts to struggling adolescent readers and to build their background knowledge. Once students have been exposed to academic content in easy reading material, they are more confident in making the transition to textbooks.