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One of my favorite parts of being a parent is reading books to my kids, especially picture books. Despite their simple structure, good children’s books often offer beautiful illustrations, captivating stories and subtle lessons that even the most complex adult books often miss.
Unfortunately, in recent years as the drive to make childhood more academic has taken hold, the value of picture books is becoming lost, at least in some areas. Based on this New York Times article, it seems this disturbing trend started several years ago. Booksellers and publishers are seeing parents pushing their children out of reading picture books as early as 4 years old. Some parents feel picture books are not academically challenging enough or are too “babyish” for their preschoolers.
Benefits of Picture Books
What a sad state of affairs! What these folks are missing is that picture books actually require quite a lot of brain power and can actually help children develop their reading skills. As librarian Lisa Von Drasek points out, picture books can provide wonderful training for future (or current) reading. These are just a few of the benefits of pictures books for older students:
- Visual literacy. “Reading” pictures is often a crucial first piece to comprehension. In pictures books kids look at the illustrations and use critical thinking skills to see how they fit with the story.
- Higher reading level. Although simple, picture books often include vocabulary at a higher reading level. Children need to hear this vocabulary before they can read it. In contrast, chapter books contain fewer pictures, but the vocabulary is often simple and the plots are predictable.
- Expand horizons. Picture books open the world to kids by exposing them to vivid illustrations of other lands and cultures (fiction and non-fiction).
- The Reason behind the Rhyme. Those rhymes may seem simplistic to us but this focus on sounds helps kids learn letter sounds and blending.
Related reading: Classic Baby Books that Boost Brain Development
I was actually really surprised my 7-year-old was interested in this book. I thought he would think it was too babyish. I mean Harold wears a footed sleeper like a baby in the book. However, my son loved it! He walked around the house with a purple crayon for days pretending to be Harold. Thankfully, his teachers at school obviously know well the magic picture books can hold, even to second-graders who think they are such “big kids.”
Related reading: Surprisingly Helpful Calming Activities for Super-Active Kids
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Flotsam: a boy finds some interesting and surprising items washed up on a beach
The Three Questions: who says picture books are just fluff? You can spend a lifetime trying to answer these three questions
Journey: I must have been hiding under a rock the last few years because I just heard about this book and it’s two related titles Quest and Return. I just checked it out from the library and it is beautiful! Ironically it has some elements that remind me of Harold and the Purple Crayon.
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick: need some ideas for a creative writing assignment? This is the book for you. Pictures to evoke the imagination of any child.
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