“Our favorite picture books speak to us at the start of life and continue to speak to us for the rest of our lives. I find that an amazing achievement.” —Leonard S. Marcus
Some of my earliest memories are centered around picture books. I still remember a beautiful picture book called Giselle, which inspired my love of ballet. And I read There’s An Elephant in the Bathtub by Roger Bradfield so many times, the book finally fell apart. Another beloved favorite was The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell, which I’m sure was the impetus for my “science museum”—a wonderful collection of rocks, shells, bark, feathers, birds nests, etc. gathered throughout my lifetime, as well as throughout my boys’ childhoods.
When my two boys were little, one of my favorite times with them was cuddling together with a stack of picture books—enjoying the colorful pictures, laughing at the silliness, and talking about the stories together. One of our favorites was Dr. Seuss’s Star Bellied Sneetches. My younger son walked around for weeks with a big star drawn around his belly button with a marker. In fact, I kept on reading out loud with my younger son well beyond when he started reading books on his own.
And, for me, perhaps the most enduring legacy of picture books? Today, I write them! A visual thinker, I see possibilities everywhere—everything has the potential to become fodder for creative expression and I am never without a pen and paper. As Henry James is widely quoted, a writer is someone on whom “nothing is lost.” Inspiration and ideas often arise seemingly out of nowhere and my head is full of stories just waiting to be told. Yippee!
Although I miss reading out loud with my boys, I look forward to having grand children to read aloud to someday. I’ve already started a picture book library for just such an occasion and what’s truly exciting is that this picture book library will include books written by me! Hooray! It is so awe-inspiring and humbling to transform a jumble of words into illustrated books to be enjoyed by little children everywhere. It touches my soul so deeply, I truly believe this is what I am meant to be doing. I just wonder why it took me so long to get here.
Picture books matter because they make a difference in our children’s lives.
Beyond the joy that comes from the joy of cuddling with our precious little ones and reading together, our kids derive tremendous benefits too. Linda Ravin Lodding shares six excellent reasons why picture books matter.
- Reading picture books makes children better readers.
- Picture books provide children exposure to rich language.
- Picture books offer an understanding of world.
- Picture books are art.
- Picture books are fun.
- Picture books create human connection.
Sandra Taylor explains why reading picture books out loud with our children provides benefits above and beyond the simple joy of snuggling and sharing a charming story. Picture books not only teach children the shapes of sentences, the sounds of language, picture books do something much more subtle and important; picture books teach story. As children are read picture books, they begin to partake in these cultural stories. They begin to understand what they can expect from the world and how they should fit into it. Read the entire interview with Sandra here.
The Great Gift of Reading
According to Newberry-medalist author Kate DiCamillo, “We let down our guard when someone we love is reading us a story. We exist together in a little patch of warmth and light.” So why stop reading aloud when our children are old enough to read by themselves? The evident pleasure of hearing a story read aloud is not confined to the young. Even teenagers (and spouses) will listen if the writing is good.
Both grown-ups and children gain something when there is reading aloud. Reading to children provides a return ticket back through the gateway—to stories that adults may otherwise seldom revisit. For 45 minutes or an hour adults can give children—and themselves—an irreplaceable gift, a cultural grounding, a zest for language, a stake in the rich history of storytelling. Read what else Meghan Cox has to say here.
My younger son was nine when we discovered the Harry Potter series. I read them aloud to him each night over the next few years and I wouldn’t trade those hours away for anything. Even when he ultimately decided to start reading to himself, I continued to read every book he did, including the ones he was assigned in English class – all the way through high school – so that we could discuss them over dinner. To this day, my son loves to read and already has a great start on his own home library, from beloved picture books and classic literature to all his favorites read over the years.
Do you agree that children’s books matter? Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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