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Picture This

Jan Brett, Eric Carle, Maurice Sendak, Mo Willems, Ezra Jack Keats…great authors and illustrators of some of your favorite children’s picture books. Picture books afford us many opportunities for interaction, creativity, “detective” work and bonding. It gives adults the opportunity to be a little silly and to watch children joyfully react to it. Beyond the fun stuff in reading picture books, there’s a host of important educational concepts that are reinforced. Yet, the picture book is fading away…sadly.

A few years ago, the NY Times reported a downturn in the production of picture books by major publishers. The article was “Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children.” The Summary article stated: “The picture book, a mainstay of children’s literature with its lavish illustrations, cheerful colors and large print wrapped in a glossy jacket, has been fading.”

In November 2010, Lori Calabrese of The Children’s Book Review, wrote an article titled How Picture Books Play a Role in a Child’s Development. Calabrese gives us 10 answers to the question “So why are picture books so important?”

10. Chapter books are not necessarily more complex than picture books and in fact, their vocabulary and sentence structure can be considered simplistic when compared with older level picture books. Many picture books are written at a higher reading level, use amazingly complex vocabularies and offer interesting plots.

9. The illustrations of a picture book help children understand what they are reading and allow young readers to analyze the story. When children are having difficulty, the illustrations can help them figure out the meaning of what they are reading. The illustrations are also a powerful way to help English learners comprehend the story.

8. Children love art. Why do you think they spend so much time coloring, drawing and doing crafts? Whatever the reason children are drawn towards a book, it’s a means to get them to read.

7. Language: Picture books allow children to practice the sounds of language and as parents it’s our responsibility to introduce new and interesting words at every opportunity. The rhythm and rhyme in many picture books make for great read-alouds and children learn words more easily when they hear them spoken often.

6. Repetition: The repetition in many picture books allows a child to participate in the story. Young readers get excited when they can anticipate a forthcoming line and children learn skills like phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension and fluency.

5. Picture books are multi-sensory, which aids a child’s growing mind and stimulates their imagination. Not only do the children hear the story, they see the illustrations, and smell and touch the pages.

4. Picture books can be a useful tool for teaching the concept of cause and effect. Before reading a picture book to your children, tell them to listen for key words such as because, so, if, then, as a result of, etc. These types of words can usually be found in a story that has a cause and effect relationship. Learn more in this article at the Writing for Children Center:

3. Picture books help develop story sense. Children learn the beginning, middle and end of a story and Teachable can often relate to the age-appropriate issues and conflicts presented in a picture book.

2. Picture books allow an entirely different, more interactive communication between parent and child. Picture books allow parents to spend time talking with their children about the story, pictures and words. This interaction builds reading comprehension. Picture books allow you to talk about what you see on each page, so be sure to talk about what happened in the story, ask about the characters, how they are feeling, and events that took place.

1. Picture books are fun and the key is to always make the reading experience fun and a time to look forward to. Reading should never be perceived as a chore. If you make reading a chore early on in a child’s development, they might grow to resent reading. Children who don’t naturally progress from picture books to chapter books may translate reading into working – more specifically, working that isn’t much fun.

Why not dig out your child’s favorite picture books soon? Get cozy for your own mini read-athon. Be silly. Take a “picture walk:” Let your child turn the pages, look at the illustrations, and tell YOU the story that they see before them. It’s the best walk you’ll ever take!



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