More and more parents are encouraging their kids to move on from picture books, to graduate to early readers and chapter books. They feel that the pictures are a crutch, that the medium is too childish. We disagree. Vehemently.
1. Reading at the highest level possible sounds good, but it’s exhausting. To really enjoy books, kids need to read things that are “too easy” some of the time.
2. Many picture books are not “too easy” at all; they’re written for adults to read aloud to kids. Since they are so comfortable with the picture book medium, kids often pick up these books and practise reading advanced vocabulary without feeling intimidated by it.
3. Pictures help kids make advanced inferences about the text – which lets picture book authors use more advanced sentences and ideas than junior novel writers usually can.
4.The illustrations of a picture book often tell a slightly different story than the text does, which introduces the opportunity for critical thinking, high-level conversations about the book, and good, old-fashioned appreciation for a great story told in an interesting way.
5. Illustrations are often a child’s first introduction to fine art.
6. School children once learned pure information by rote, but now there is just too much information out there. Instead, schools teach kids the skills they need to keep learning on their own. Picture books are specially crafted to foster imagination and critical thinking, which are both essential for this style of learning.
7. Picture books are perfect for shared reading. Everyone knows they are great for giving children and caregivers the chance to cuddle up and share an experience, but the benefits go farther than simple bonding. When you read together, you talk about what you read. When you talk about what you read, you encourage your child’s comprehension skills. So often, kids can read at a much higher level than they can actually comprehend, which makes the entire process simply mechanical. Sharing a book, and talking about it, ensures they are not just reading the words and tuning out the story.
8. Picture books often use rhyme, rhythm, and word play that are great for developing language skills.
9. Picture books are great teaching tools! Visit a classroom and watch how a teacher introduces a new topic, whether it’s frogs, or pioneers, or poverty, or war. He or she will probably gather the students (even older ones), open a picture book, and start to read.
10. People get passionate about picture books! Our favourite stories and characters stay with us all of our lives and make us want to share them with the next generation. Don’t stifle that urge, and don’t limit it to the first few years of life. Picture books are powerful things, so share and share and share!