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Picture Books - How Important Are They?

Think about your favorite childhood picture book – the one book – you opened time and time again. For me, it was A Kiss for Little Bear, by Else Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Although we may never know exactly why any one particular book struck our fancy, as adults, we do know that picture books are important to developmental literacy in children. While there are many reasons, and much discussion on the subject, here are my top five:

1. Snuggle time! Picture books present an opportunity for parents to spend valuable time bonding with their children. Parents are so busy…and kids grow more active – running, playing, exploring – so picture books offer a moment of quiet connection that nurtures a positive association with you and with reading.

2. Lessons learned: Parents can question their children about the story – opening up significant opportunity to introduce:

  • Problem resolution – How did their favorite character handle their problem or conflict? Kids will apply skills they’ve learned from a character they love.

  • Life lessons – As parents, we want to be able to prepare our children for life situations, and picture books open the dialogue for lessons we may not have considered – or even experienced ourselves – including those uncomfortable subjects we may tend to avoid talking about. In this way, parents are learning, too.

  • Communication skills – Interaction with you and with the characters queues children to express themselves and deal with social situations in positive and effective ways.

3. Come to your senses! Just as a child wants to choose what to wear or what to eat – they want to be able to read on their own. Picture books provide this need and are a self-contained, intuitive and multisensory learning experience unlike any other. Children touch and control the pages, can hear (and speak) the words when read aloud, and see the colorful and expressive illustrations. When a concept is associated with multiple senses, it is more easily learned and retrieved, no matter what kind of learner your child may be.

4. Pictures and words: Associating textual meaning with visual queues, children learn to comprehend the meaning of a story in a self-directed manner. Often pictures do not simply depict the text, but provide more complex information about the characters and the events. When unfamiliar words are introduced, this association can translate into an increased vocabulary, which develops with each page and book read.

5. Academic strength: Picture books offer a key to independent, lifelong learning. Strength in reading provides the foundation for all knowledge. Without a proficiency in reading, children quickly fall behind in school, and struggle to learn other critical subjects required in our educational system. Figuratively, reading represents the wheels on the school bus. If they fall off, well…what can we expect to happen?

Very few things are as powerful as literacy to a young child. And the picture book is still, above all, the best device available to engage imagination, develop language, communication and social skills and foster the parent-child relationship. If you don’t believe me, it’s time to pick up and read your favorite children’s book again!

Calabrese, Lori. "How Picture Books Play a Role in a Child's Development." The Children's Book Review. The Children's Book Review, 6 Nov. 2010. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.

Pitts, Anna. "Learning Is Multi-Sensory: How To Engage All The Senses So Children Really Benefit." How To, 13 Dec. 2012. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.

"10 Reasons Why You Should Read to Your Kids." N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.

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