Monday, November 29, 2010

No Love for Picture Books?

I don't talk a whole lot about picture books here, since my writing is geared older, but... A recent article in the New York Times describes how publishers are scaling back on picture books as parents favor text-heavy chapter books for their young children.  The full article can be found here:

New York Times: Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children

Sigh.  Wait... SIGH.  REALLY LOUDLY. 

I don't write picture books, but I do teach young children.  I spend a lot of time talking to parents about books that are "just-right" for their children, and trying to slow the rush into chapter books for my first graders. 

Now... I do read chapter books to my class, as read alouds.  With much discussion.  Review.  Vocabulary building.  But my kiddies, even my brightest ones, can gain bad reading habits by jumping too quickly into chapter books.  They learn to decode but they lack comprehension even though they can pronounce the words.  Developmentally, most little guys cannot remember an entire chapter book-length story.  When asked to discuss or retell their stories (book closed) right after they read, they only tell me what happened at the end, because they are unable to accumulate all that text.  Then they begin to do this even in shorter, more simple stories, because it has become a bad habit.  :(
The definition that many first grade teachers use of reading is "making meaning of text".  If our kids are not making meaning, or comprehending, they are not really reading.  They are spitting out words.  They miss the critical thinking skills built with picture books.  And man, are they missing some good stories.

Besides, what's the rush?  I always tell both the kids and the parents that all of them will be reading beginning chapter books (think Henry and Mudge, Poppleton, Frog and Toad) by the end of first grade/beginning of second grade, so let's take the time to lay the foundation and we'll get there.  Chapter books aren't going anywhere. :)

But there is more here than just my rant on "just right" reading.  I am a lover of picture books.  There is SUCH BEAUTY in picture books!  The idea that they are becoming less valued is incredibly sad to me, but on the upside, I get to fill my kiddies' days with them.  As a celebration of picture books, here are some of my absolute favorites:

Oh.  I could go on and on.  These books are like my little best friends.  Thank goodness I get to share them with my own kids and my first graders, along with many, many more wonderful reads.

Do you have a soft spot for picture books?  What are your favorites?


Tracy said...

Oh, your post hit a note being a special education teacher...those picture books are also great prompts for my kiddoes who need visual reminders of the story elements. UGH!! ...just another example of pushing kids too hard!

The Little Old Lady who was not Afraid of Anything is one of my favories, as is Chrysanthemum... And Owl Moon! Have you ever read 'Whale's Song?' ...a lovely book as well.

thanks for the thoughtful post......

Old Kitty said...

I've just bid (at a charity kitty auction) for a winnie the pooh picture book! LOL!!!! I'm horrified to read this article (thanks for the link) in the New York times especially when the demise of such gorgeous wonders of art are put down to pressure from parents wanting their children to develop intellectually as quickly as possible. My goodness - we are talking children here under 5 years old! Talk about pressure on the children!

I love picture books - the Gruffalo is among my favourites!!!

Take care

Talli Roland said...

I used to love picture books. I think the photos can really fuel children's imaginations! I grew up loving Dr Seuss and 'Where the Wild Things Are'.

aspiring_x said...

mercer meyer rocks my socks!
and i have a soft spot in my heart for the berenstein bears.

Dominic de Mattos said...

I couldn't agree with you more!


I have a particularly soft spot for "Are you My Mother?" It was my favourite picture book as a very small child; read it over and over until I knew it by heart. Slowly I put together the word shapes with the story I knew.

Found my way here from Hannah Kincade's blog ... good to meet you!


Laura Marcella said...

I saw that article a while ago. Such a bummer for the kids. I love buying picture books for my little nieces and nephews! They get such joy out of looking at the colorful pictures and pointing out letters and words they recognize.

Carol Riggs said...

I write only YA, but I'm an artist too, and I loooooove picture books. I have fond memories of reading to my daughters, exploring the PBs from the library. Lovely time. I also would hate to see kids pushed into chapter books, because it cuts down on the adult-to-child interaction, enjoying a good book together. Sigh.

Julie Hedlund said...

Thanks so much for this article. I wrote a similar piece shortly after the NYT article came out, and I'll provide a link to this post there.

Anonymous said...

Great post and very valid point on the essence of reading versus the technique.

Although I read aloud to my kids every day, I do worry if I spend enough time discussing the meaning of what we read.

We need to boost that discussion component of reading aloud.

And yes, picture books are not only books but tutors!

Read Aloud Dad

Jemi Fraser said...

I love picture books!! I use them all the time to teach reading skills and strategies in my grade 5/6 classroom! We all love the art work and how the text and art work together to give you so much more than the text itself. In the last few days I've used the Great Kapok Tree, The Tin Forest, & Martin's Big Words (MLK).

J.R. said...

Can't believe you got all those examples and missed David Wiesner's fantastic triple-play: FLOTSAM, TUESDAY, and SECTOR7. My three-year-old loves 'em.

Rebecca T. said...

I love, love, love picture books! I actually have 2 manuscripts I keep playing with (they're not ready to see the light of day just yet).

I still read them for myself! Have you seen "Not a Box"? It's so cute. I also love "Is Your Mama a Llama" and recommend it to people all the time. Also "The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig" is one of my all time favorite fairy tale twists :D

yeah for picture books!