Did you know that November is Picture Book Month? I didn't and I'm a children's librarian. I'm feeling a bit ignorant right now. Anyway I learned an interesting fact, picture book month was created by an author/storyteller, Dianne de Las Casas, based on the disheartening article that was published in the New York Times back in October of 2010, Picture Books No Longer a Staple For Children. The author talked about the demise of picture books that really got my blood boiling. In fact it probably got every librarian, bookseller, book lover, and teacher's blood boiling. The death of the picture book, really? This is absolutely not true. And to prove this point, Dianne de Las Casas, decided to promote a campaign in favor of picture books and to celebrate them each year. Go Diane! And that is exactly what she has done. With the help of the industry, authors, publishers, librarians and booksellers she created a website promoting this month each year. Picture Book Month. Check it out!
But back to the disturbing article, even though it was written two years ago, the gist of the article was not that picture books weren't popular because of the devices and ebooks going viral. No, the main fact in the article was that parents weren't buying picture books anymore because they felt they weren't challenging their children and advancing their reading skills. The article discussed that chapter books were more useful in building vocabulary and reading strategies more than a picture book. All of this is pure nonsense. Picture books are for all ages and stages. Not only does it bring a story to life, the illustrations engages the reader and creates conversations as well as sharing of our innermost thoughts.
First, let's define what a picture book is. A picture book is a story that combines illustrations and words in a successful integration. Picture books are 32 pages in length and illustrations dominate the text integrating the text to bring a story to a satisfying conclusion for the reader. Picture books can vary in word length from 500 words to 2000 words. Some picture books cater to the very young child, while some picture books can be enjoyed by even middle school students or adults.
As a teacher librarian I can sum up the importance of picture books:
1. Chapter books are not necessarily more complex than picture books. Many picture books are actually written at a higher reading level than an beginning reader with more complex vocabularies and plots.
2. Illustrations help children to understand the story and analyze it as well as figure out the meaning of what they are reading.
3. Language in picture books allows children to practice sounds as well as rhythm and rhythme. Picture books usually provide lots of repetition that helps readers to anticipate more in the story as well as learn reading skills like phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension and fluency.
4. Picture books are usually mutli-sensory which stimulates imagination but helps readers to hear a story, see the illustrations and touch the pages.
5. Picture books help develop a story. Children can learn about beginnings, middles and endings as well as conflict resolution.
6. Picture books provide interaction with parents, caregivers, grandparents, or any adult.
7. Most importantly reading picture books is fun. I truly believe that picture books help to create life long readers
Picture books bring the world to children through language and illustrations. Picture books help us to understand the world, the good and the bad. Picture books help us deal with new situations in our lives, such as new babies, new siblings, starting school, families, being scared, the list goes on. I think author Paul O. Zelinksky says it best, "Picture books are a unique form of storytelling, and storytelling is at the core of how we learn to experience the world. Picture books are the bridge to a life of reading." Thank you Paul. I couldn't have said it better!
Personally, I feel strongly that picture books are just one way to provide both personal and academic fulfillment to children. They help to create values, intellects, as well as enjoyment, imagination and experiences. Stories can create empathy and teach morals as well as world history. There is so much that books in general can do for us. I feel very strongly that children learn about their world through stories and the more they can know and understand the more they can learn about themselves. And reading aloud, reading a picture book can build knowledge that is required for not only reading success but also lifelong success.
So if you have a child, or even if you don't have a child, go to your local library or bookstore and look at the picture books, even just one. Look at, reveal in the illustrations, the storyline. Let your imagination travel. If you can read one a week, better yet like Diane says, read one a day for the entire month of November! But most importantly notice the importance of picture books in our children's lives.