Saturday, April 23, 2011

Children and Picture Books: What Parents Might be Missing

Cross another childhood pastime off the list.  A report released back in the fall stated that there has been a decline in the number of parents having their children look at picture books in an effort to move them to “big kid” reading choices.  The parents of these children do not see any value in the picture book phase of child development and are skipping what many experts consider to be an important first step toward the experience of learning to read.  
One of the many pleasures of early childhood is discovering the wonder that a picture book holds for a beginning reader.  The combination of illustration and text, distinct to each author and illustrator’s style, provides enjoyment and skills while laying the groundwork for a lifetime of reading pleasure.
The picture book provides more than a reading experience.  It is the introduction of art appreciation in the illustrations and hearing the beauty in spoken language and well crafted words.  The picture book is also an act of a physical nature by holding an object and turning pages. 
Children are constantly comparing and contrasting: “who got the bigger slice of pie?”, “who got more milk?” and “who ran to the door first?”  Think of the contest in “Guess How Much I Love You?” and the lyrical language by Sam Mc Bratney accompanied by the pastel illustrations from Anita Jeram.  The colors are soft and muted to mirror the contest of ‘who-loves-who-more’ with the determined little bunny and his parent.  By the end of the book the bunny is exhausted from trying to top the adult bunny in the contest of comparing amounts of love and falls asleep.  It is a question and answer session that children can identify with, told in story-form, with pictures of situations they can see themselves in.  These are important ‘self-to-text’ connections for a beginning reader to make, not just in the literal comprehension of the book, but in the area of social development by helping a young child become more aware of other people’s thoughts, feelings and actions.
Ask any children’s picture book author and he or she will tell you that writing a picture book is a challenge because every word is scrutinized.  The author needs to write an engaging arc of a story in as few words possible and keep the story entertaining for a young reader.  The classic picture books have stood the test of time.  What child, after having a favorite picture book read at bedtime, hasn’t pulled up the covers and with one final yawn for the day asked “one more time?”
Be well, 

Alice Knisley Matthias

Education Writer


  1. This is so true, kids need to read picture books if not just for the pleasure of reading but to understand emotions and feelings. Picture books help show problem solving, its one of the best ways for young minds to comprehend various scenerios. Thanks for sharing this is a great post.

  2. Children crawl before they walk, they scribble before they write and they babble before they talk. These are important developmental milestones and can affect their normal development when there are issues interrupting this development. These milestones also give the child a sense of success and confidence. I feel picture books fit right in the "stair-step" of development when it comes to reading. As a child development specialist, I see parents pushing children a bit too much rather than letting them enjoy their childhood. They grow up way too fast as it is!

  3. Thank you for this lovely post and for championing the magical experience found between a picture book and a child.



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