Thursday April 5, 2007

     My boys are now 13 and 8.  The younger one, of course, is still a good age for hearing picture books read aloud.  He’s at an age when he still enjoys sitting right beside me so that he can spend the entire time it takes me to read a page looking at that page’s illustration.  You might think that my older son is past the picture book age, but he is not.  Not really. While he would, of course, rather read for himself something more substantial, he still enjoys when I offer to let him choose the day’s picture book; and I still see him leaning over to look at each new page as it is turned.  I try to read at least one picture book to my boys every afternoon.  Here’s why.

     Honestly, I think the main reason that I still read at least one picture book a day is because I love doing it!  C.S. Lewis once said, “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”   I couldn’t agree more!  As I’ve been building our home library, I’ve kept my eyes open for wonderful picture books to add to the collection.  As the new books arrive in the mail, I’m as anxious to read them for the first time as my children!  Most picture books are a nice size for holding in my lap, which is the perfect place to really admire the lovely illustrations and take in the colors, backgrounds and all the details.

     Reading a picture book aloud is also good instruction for my children in how to read aloud.  Picture books are often full of wonderful characters.  Because they are illustrated, the reader can get a feel for the personalities of the characters and can then give them appropriate voice.  I want my sons to read aloud to their children, and to read aloud with proper intonation, fun voices and lots of energy!  If I read aloud in this manner, they will do the same thing without even thinking about it when they are dads.

     Reading a picture book can even give us the opportunity of enjoying some truly wonderful art work by famous artists. We have books illustrated by Tasha Tudor, Thomas Locker, and a host of others.  Through picture books, my boys are exposed to a wide variety of styles and types of art.  The illustrations in our picture books offer examples of pen and ink drawings, pencil sketches, lovely watercolor work, pastels and oils.  The styles range from very basic drawings, to lovely impressionistic paintings, and gorgeous landscapes. 

     One genre of picture books that I’ve been carefully trying to introduce into our library, are fairy tales and classic children’s stories. Unfortunately, my sons are all too familiar with the Disney versions of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and the like.  We are now reading more accurate versions of many of these stories, as well as several that Disney has not tampered with, and are enjoying the richness of the author’s original work.  I’m purchasing fairy tales and other classic children’s picture books because I think they are vital for a well-rounded education.  I want my children to know the source of sayings commonly used in America.  I want them to connect “The sky is falling” with Henny Penny and not the movie Chicken Little!

     Reading aloud from a wide variety of picture books allows children to have a wide variety of knowledge.  Of course, they will not have a deep knowledge of any subject from a picture book reading, but they will have had a taste.  That small taste might lead to a desire for more knowledge which can then be pursued.  In other instances, a child might hear of a famous person, a distant place or an historical event that peaks his curiosity.  Handing that child a lengthy book on the subject might be more than he bargained for, or more than is appropriate for his age; but a picture book might offer just enough to satisfy his curiosity.

     For example, my eight year old really has had no exposure to the Titanic disaster, but it is something he’s heard of and has asked me about.  One of the picture books currently on my Amazon wish list is Polar, the Titanic Bear, which will offer a gentle introduction to that disaster.  There are dozens of such examples I could give you, but here are just a couple I quickly pulled from the shelf by way of illustration.  What child has not heard of Big Ben and wondered what that might be? Katie in London, by James Mayhew, will give a child an exhilarating tour of all of London’s famous sites including Big Ben. How about Johnny Appleseed?  Legends abound, but we love the illustrated poem by Reeve Lindbergh that gives a nice background of the historical John Chapman, while still giving us a taste of the legend.

     Valerie Jacobsen, of Valerie’s Living Books, says “Sometimes a children’s book will answer an adult’s question.  Sometimes an adult book will answer a child’s question.”   Many of our picture books are really wonderful non-fiction sources of information for all ages.

     Reading picture books aloud instills and maintains a love of reading in our children.  Hearing a wonderful story read aloud completely in one sitting is pleasurable.  I believe that the reading of picture books aloud to my children when they were young has had a great deal to do with the fact that they are, or are becoming, avid readers.  When Mom, or Dad, shows pleasure in reading aloud to the children, the children learn that it is pleasurable activity.

     My sons are growing older.  Most of our reading aloud these days is from chapter books and lengthier non-fiction works.  However, I do not plan on giving up our one-a-day reading of picture books any time soon.  We all enjoy it too much

God bless you as you look well to the ways of your households!
Proverbs 31:27

(Note:  Be sure to check the side bar.  I try to list the picture books we are reading every week!)

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4 comments to Thursday April 5, 2007

  • What a lovely post and thank you for the book recommendations. Reading picture books is one of my favorite parts of the day. My children never turn down an opportunity for me to read to them!

  • I completely agree! I pulled out four picture books the other day to read to the “grands,” but that evening, my children asked me to read them to them. They hadn’t heard the books in years, but it was a very enjoyable time for all. My husband said, “I had forgotten how well you read aloud [those children’s books].” You can really get into the characterization.

    Re: nonfiction children’s books–my oldest daughter (who reads probably 1000 pages a week) turned me on to these. She said, “I wanted to know about Maggie Thatcher. I intended to read a “real” (read: 400 pp) biography eventually, but first I got a 40 page children’s bio. It had LOTS of pictures, which the adult version would not have. Now I always get the children’s version first, of anything I want to study.”

    Great post!

  • Your oldest daughter is a smart girl!!  🙂

  • I chanced upon your site and thought your reading picture books to your kids is a wonderful thing you’re doing! Thanks for sharing! Have a blessed day! :wave: