When I taught first grade, most of my students wanted to read chapter books, despite their varying abilities to do so independently, simply because, “everyone else is doing it!” It was, in a sense, the six-year-old version of Keeping Up with the Joneses. While I admired and supported their goals to improve their reading skills, I also mourned their quick dismissal of our old friends, picture books. What did Maurice Sendak and Jan Brett and Mac Barnett do to deserve such treatment from these children?
The fact of the matter is this — in the name of growth and becoming better readers, children and their parents are quick to write off picture books as being too easy or babyish. Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t be so quick to ditch the picture books:
- Picture books are a fantastic vehicle to introduce new, more complex vocabulary. Take One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck, for example. As Sophia attempts to persuade her family that a giraffe is the perfect birthday gift for her, she uses words like effusive, loquacious, or verbose.
- Growing up includes learning about loaded and hard to discuss topics. Picture books are a fantastic resource to launch these conversations. For topics ranging from immigration (read Her Right Foot) to handling a loved ones’ death (try Where Do They Go?) to everything in between, picture books have got us covered.
- Combining pictures and words helps us to derive a deeper meaning. Illustrations support readers by helping them delve beneath the surface, synthesize the text, and make inferences based off of what they see.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter what your children read, as long as they’re reading. Reading makes you smarter, increases your vocabulary, and improves analytical thinking. Your child will reap the benefits whether they read picture books, chapter books, newspapers, or cereal boxes. The key is consistency. So the next time your older child picks up a picture book, enjoy the moment with them. They’re benefitting more than you think they are!Tags: Alexa Moffat, benefits of reading, books, kids, picture books, reading