The Power of Picture Books

Lately I’ve been thinking about picture books, and the collective power of children’s literature. Having semi-recently switched jobs from children’s to reference librarian @ local public libraries, I’ve missed being surrounded by kids, their books, excitement, curiosity, and yes, sometimes reluctance.

About a week or so ago, I had the opportunity to meet with the owners of a fabulous local, independent, children’s book store. Meeting with them  got me thinking about the power of children’s literature. Reading a book as a child can have a profound impact on who that child grows up to become, influencing them in a way that reading later in their life cannot. Their store creates this sort of magic. By connecting children with books and characters that are ‘just right’ for them on an individual level.

In the learning environments I’ve worked and taught in, I’ve attempted to create those connections too. I absolutely love anything remotely related to children’s literature and am always looking to infuse it into my students’ learning. I love the challenge of finding that ‘perfect’ book for the reluctant reader who would rather be doing just about anything else but then becomes completely captivated and engrossed in his/her reading.

I have spent entire summers teaching, where every single lesson was somehow connected to a piece of children’s literature-picture books, read-alouds, etc. We had tons of fun and I would venture to guess that those kids learned a few new vocabulary words along the way. Yet many of school environments I’ve encountered don’t share this enthusiasm towards creating readers (students who are proficient in reading is another story).

I cringe (and sometimes create compelling research-based arguments) when a school I’m spending time in decides to cut their time spent reading aloud or independently in favor of skill/drill tactics to improve their test scores. Do you remember a favorite book or character from something you read or that was read to you as a child? I bet that that memory does not involve a character found in the pages of a test at school. If the only characters and stories that children are connecting with are found in the reading passages of standardized tests-what kind of people are we hoping to build?

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