Here’s Exactly How I SPY Boosts Memory & Visual Learning

The visually engaging I SPY books are perfect for reluctant readers.

May 20, 2019



Here’s Exactly How I SPY Boosts Memory & Visual Learning

May 20, 2019

There's a good reason why the I SPY series has been around for over two decades — kids can't get enough of the colorful riddle books! Not only do kids adore the dozens of titles from I SPY Treasure Hunt to I SPY Mystery, but so do teachers. They're a fun and playful way to build memory and learning skills without kids even realizing it. Check out these reasons why you should use them with your kids.

1. Build Working Memory

Having a good working memory helps kids perform and learn new tasks. Memory is kind of like a muscle: We need to strengthen it with regular repetition and practice.

There are many ways to improve working memory such as assigning multi-step tasks to complete: “Go to your room, pick up all your dirty clothes, and put them in the laundry room,” for example. (And we all know how much repetition and practice is needed when it comes to picking up dirty clothes off the floor!)

Using I SPY books also helps strengthen working memory. In I SPY Animals, your child searches the image for different objects and creatures. A fun rhyming text lists the items you need to find in the picture. Your child will build his working memory by remembering the clever list of items he needs to find.


On this page spread, the child has to hold onto two things (a bird and a balloon) in her working memory to find in the picture. Other I SPY books have even longer lists of items to find so that kids can challenge themselves and grow into more difficult searches.

2. Enhance Visual Discrimination

One of the best uses of I SPY books is for teaching kids about visual discrimination. The ability to recognize visual details in a picture helps kids to later discriminate between the shapes of different letters — a fundamental reading skill. We all know how similar certain letters can look, especially b, d, p, and q. Asking kids to develop an eye for details in pictures enhances their skills in recognizing letters printed in unfamiliar fonts, for example.

Look at this page from I SPY Year Round Challenger: It's a feast for the eyes and packed with learning opportunities.


Can you find the paintbrush and the paperclip? Your child will have to discriminate between lots of visual data to find each item on the page. This is great for strengthening those visual discrimination skills that will carry over to your child's reading.

3. Entice Reluctant Readers

With simple text and an engaging game element, I SPY is a fun way to convince reluctant or struggling readers to spend time with a book series. Young kids who aren’t reading on their own yet also benefit from working their memory and observational skills. So grab a few I SPY books and let your kids have fun. Behind the scenes, you'll know that their learning and memory skills are getting a powerful boost.

Fans of Walter Wick, illustrator of I SPY books, may enjoy his newest book, A Ray of Light. It's a scientific look at the secrets and complexity of light.

To connect with Jodie, visit her at Growing Book by Book.

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