Some parents seem to move their children on too quickly in their often well-motivated quest to help their children succeed as readers. Julie Bosman note in an excellent article on this topic in 2010 that sometimes the motives are confused. She quoted the manager of a major children's department in Washington who said:
“They’re 4 years old, and their parents are getting them ‘Stuart Little,’....I see children pick up picture books, and then the parents say, ‘You can do better than this, you can do more than this.’ It’s a terrible pressure parents are feeling — that somehow, I shouldn’t let my child have this picture book because she won’t get into Harvard.”
These are tendencies that I have also observed and motivated me to write about this in 2010. This post is a revised version of the earlier post and highlights what I see as four myths about picture books.
Where the Wild Things Are' is a single sentence that is extremely complex, with a mix of embedded clauses, direct speech, unusual verbs and rich metaphor. Good picture books often use complex metaphors to develop themes, and the limitations of the number of words used requires the author to use language with an economy and power that many chapter books simply don't attain. The subtle use of image, word, page layout, colour, and text layout variations can create sophisticated texts. Graphic novels and electronic picture books like 'The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore' which I've reviewed previously (here) are taking this to a completely new level.
Granpa' as a simple story about a little girl and her grandfather, but can revisit it years later and discover that it tells of the death of the little girl's Grandfather. And many adults may never see the underlying themes in children's books, like that of death in 'John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat'.
Emerging Comprehension'). Picture books present multiple sign systems in one text. The parallel use of language, image and many other devices (e.g. colour and print layout), stimulates creativity and the imagination in ways that chapter books cannot. A book like Graeme Base's 'The Sign of the Seahorse' uses language, brilliant illustrations, a play text structure and other devices (including a map and hidden clues), to offer a complex text to be explored, read, enjoyed, 'worked out' and revisited many times.
Myth 4 - 'Picture books are just for children'. Not so! While the majority of picture books are designed for readers under the age of 7 years, more and more are written for much wider readerships and the rapidly developing genre of the 'Graphic Novel' (see previous post here) because they allow the author to use word, image and other modes (including related audio, video and music) to create more complex tellings of the story the author has in mind. For example, books like 'My Place' and 'Requiem for a Beast' and 'When the Wind Blows' were never meant just for little children. In fact, Matt Ottley's book was actually meant for high school readers. The great thing about picture books is that children and adults can both enjoy them, sometimes separately, and sometimes together. The latter is an important way to grow in shared knowledge and understanding as well as a key vehicle for helping children to learn as we explore books with them.
here), including linguistic, spatial, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinaesthetic (e.g. 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar') and even musical intelligence' if it integrates early rhyme and music (Matt Ottley integrates a complete original musical in 'Requiem for a Beast'!). David Almond's book 'Slog's Dad' which I reviewed recently (here) offers two parallel story journeys in the one book, one in words, and the other in pictures. Arguably, every form of intelligence can be potentially integrated into the picture book. This is not to suggest that chapter books only emphasize 'linguistic Intelligence' - for example, 'spatial intelligence' includes abstract, analytical abilities that go beyond simply seeing images - but their potential to do this is more limited for the young child.
multimodal experiences with text.
Julie Bosman's article in the New York Times (20th October, 2010) HERE
Previous post on 'Requiem for a Best' and graphic novels HERE
Previous post on 'Emerging Comprehension' HERE
All my posts on picture books HERE