When I was new to Britain, I was a frequent visitor to good friends, Maria and Richard. Richard was a comic book collector. I didn’t really understand his fascination; the need to collect, collate, complete a series, the way he would pore over a character, anticipate plot development, research and compare illustration and setting.
It is only now, as I secure reasons to implore readers to value the role of picture books in the reading process, that I understand that Richard, a successful chartered accountant, was demonstrating behaviours that connect with those of a picture book afficionado.
I can recall my early picture books more clearly than any other books from my childhood because they were read to me giving a sense of physical connection, offered a greater opportunity for revisiting and held a deeper fascination and sense of possibility. ‘Make Way for Ducklings’ by Robert McCloskey (Puffin) and ‘Madeline’ by Ludwig Bemelmans (Scholastic). Why?
Picture books are essential to the reading process. They are so much more than a stepping stone to ‘better’ books, to chapter books.
There is a wealth of good picture books available to borrow, buy and share. We are a fortunate reading public. Picture books offer:-
multisensory opportunities with pictures and sounds;
graphic stimulus and complexity- learning to read images, spaces, tricks employed by a picture book maker to provoke meaning and feeling;
a wealth of opportunities for conversation and questions;
conundra- visual thinking/ reasoning opportunities, opportunities to make connections and comparisons, to engage critically;
complex, higher end vocabulary- picture books employ fewer words of greater weight;
the chance to play with words, build rhyme perhaps, e.g., ‘The ACB with Honora Lee’ by Kate de Goldi and Greg O’Brien (Hot Key Books);
emotional connections, a need to empathise, a way to step into complex and challenging issues, history, or current events, e.g., ‘Rose Blanche’ by Ian McEwan and Roberto Innocenti (Red Fox) or ‘Azzi in Between’ by Sarah Garland (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books);
wilder fancies of imagination, e.g., ‘Millie’s Marvellous Hat’ by Satoshi Kitamura (Andersen Press) or ‘Weslandia’ by Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes (Walker Books);
the chance to build relationships with characters, e.g., ‘MIchael’ by Tony Bradman and Tony Ross (Andersen Press), ‘Something Else’ by Kathryn Cave and Chris Riddell (Puffin), or ‘Harris Finds his Feet’ by Catherine Rayner (Little Tiger Press);
first reading experiences, a chance to reread, to memorise, to know the story without the need to ‘be right’, to depend on code/ text, but to read, know and love a STORY;
opportunities to write, extend and/ or respond;
a realisation that reading is important when bonding physically with an accessible book, within a sharing, loving experience.
That sharing, loving experience bonds a child with the reader, the book and the process for life. It cannot be underestimated or undone. So, take another look at picture books. There’s a whole, wonderful world waiting for you, reader! Bronnie