by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com
Have you noticed there's a prejudice about kids reading picture books? We're fine with it when kids are in pre-school, or attending a read-aloud session at the library. But some parents actively deter their kids from reading picture books once they start school, pushing them onto chapter books as soon as they can read independently. It seems a book without pictures is perceived as some sort of trophy to impress others.
What a shame! I believe picture books are great to share as a read aloud no matter what age your child is. A much-loved and often-shared picture book can eventually make a great beginning reader. Kids have memorized its text and are almost role-playing reading when they read it aloud to you or their toys. From my perspective, a trade picture book is usually of much higher quality than a caption reader or phonic-based book.
And why shouldn't people of any age read picture books? There are many suitable for older readers, bursting with material and pictures to entertain us and make us think. A book like Mirror by Jeannie Baker, for instance, can be read and appreciated by any age.
As for pushing kids onto chapter books, why? Let children choose what they want to read. If you have a chapter book you love that you want to share with your child, why not choose it as a book to read aloud in serial form? I call this hand-selling, and it works just as well at home as it does at school. Once I share a book with kids, and use all my read-aloud wiles to bring a book to life, I find kids clamour to borrow it. Allowing kids to choose their own reading material means they will want to read, and have confidence in themselves and their choices - it's as simple as that. As the Scholastic Reading Bill of Rights says:
"...every child should be able to choose and own the books they want to read, for that choice builds literacy confidence – the ability to read, write and speak about what they know, what they feel, and who they are."
What are we afraid of, when we stop kids reading picture books? Afraid that they will still be choosing to read them at twelve or twenty-two? Afraid that society will perceive that as a sign of stupidity or strangeness? I still read picture books and excitedly share new ones with adult visitors to my home, and I am not described as stupid or strange. (Well, not to my face.)
A picture book is like a window to the world for kids. It introduces them to our literary heritage, to the pleasure of story, to fascinating facts, to visual and textual delights created by both author and illustrator. It won't stop doing that just because a child moves up a class.
Picture books are so powerful; why not share one with your kids today? Whether it's a real physical book, or an e-book for a gadget, there's so much pleasure to be had from sharing a picture book with someone you love. If you're looking for great picture books and ways to include them in your teaching, try Keith Shoch's blog, Teach with Picture Books, or explore any of the children's book review sites. At The Book Chook, go to labels in my right side bar and try "Reviews".
Photo courtesy of US Army and photo credit Lori Grein (USAG Detroit Arsenal)