Teaching students to form pictures in their mind improves comprehension and thinking skills. We do this most effectively through direct modeling and student practice. It is also beneficial to encourage peer sharing and illustrations of mental images.
One of the most creative ways I have seen this strategy practiced is through an activity called "Stretch and Sketch" where the students spread out around the room with a piece of paper and a pencil. The teacher reads a selection while the students sketch what they picture in their mind. This helps the students to focus on what is being read and pay attention to important details.
I found a quote by Keene and Zimmerman that sums up the importance of this strategy.
"Proficient readers spontaneously and puprosely create mental images while and after they read. The images emerge from all five senses as well as the emotions and are anchored in a reader's prior knowledge." — Keene and Zimmerman, Mosaic of Thought
Teach this strategy, practice it with your students, and encourage parents to review it with their child by using the Parent Pipeline for suggestions.
Keene, E. O., and Zimmermann, S. (1997). Mosaic of thought: Teaching comprehension in a reader's workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.