A recent New York Times article, "Picture Books Languish as Parents Push 'Big Kid' Books"
said that some parents are rushing children into chapter books, or discouraging them to read "too easy" picture books. The parents hope that this will give their children a competitive edge in reading and learning.
I think these parents have their children's best interests at heart. It's a competitive world, and they understandably want their kids to be able to earn a living when they get older.
But reading experts disagree with the premise. Here are eight ways they say picture books actually help children learn...and learn to read.
1. According to Dr. Deborah Pope, executive director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, picture books help children link images and words, teaching them to visualize stories...an ability that comes in handy when they read chapter books.
2. Picture book master Tomie dePaola describes a picture book as "once a child has a book read to them, they can remember the book just by looking at the pictures."
If you've ever witnessed a child learning to read (or if you remember learning to read,) you know that memorizing stories often comes first.
3. Lisa Von Drasek of Early Word Kids,
made several good points, including that picture books often have more sophisticated vocabulary than early chapter books.
4. She said that picture books literally give kids a picture of other places, historical times, and cultures. I would like to add that any nonfiction book with pictures helps a child learn a subject because the pictures serve as an aid for understanding and remembering.
5. She added that the rhythm, rhyme, and repetition of picture books help kids learn to read.
6. Josie Leavitt, co-owner of The Flying Pig bookstore, said in a blog post "How We Can Save the Picture Book"
that good picture books are something you remember your whole life. I think a lot of you remember sitting with a parent or caregiver listening to a picture book. While that memory may not have helped you make your first million, it's worth something (maybe more important.)
7. Experts have argued against pushing kids to grow up too fast.
While a child might be capable of reading an academically advanced book (and might choose to,) that doesn't mean they should be steered away from picture books. Letting kids enjoy the childish innocence (or even nonsense) of a picture book lets kids be kids. (And keep in mind that they can enjoy chapter books and picture books.)
8. As a parent, I've found that letting my kids read what they want--and even feeding their obsessions (animals! dinosaurs! baseball! The Hardy Boys! Harry Potter! Goosebumps!) has made them enthusiastic readers. It's also made them willing to humor me when I say, "Let's read all the mock Caldecott's!" or "Let's learn about the Dust Bowl!"
Picture books can be fun, funny, off-the-wall, quiet, touching, reassuring, informative, not to mention beautifully illustrated. Just like grownups, kids like to be entertained, educated, and enlightened by books. And if kids read what they like, they'll like reading!