1. They remind me of what it's like to be a child.
When I think of my childhood, I remember it feeling like magic. It was natural to believe that imaginary things were real back then. Reading a picture book gives me that feeling again for a few minutes.
2. I love picture books because of the illustrations.
Many books are a work of art. Some illustrations are so detailed that we find new things every time we read the story. Some provide layers of meaning, which can’t be understood from just the text. Others are simple, adorable, crazy, whimsical, creative or quirky.
3. I love the way the words and pictures work together to tell the story.
In a true picture book, the illustrations haven’t merely been added later to hold the interest of children with short attention spans. The story can’t be understood without the pictures.
4. The words are like poetry.
The best picture books are ones which adults enjoy reading aloud over and over. Some are written so beautifully, they bring a tear to the eye every time. And there are those which have me laughing out loud, even though it’s my 20th reading of the book.
5. Picture books are easy to enjoy again and again.
They are short. That suits me. There’s always time to read at least one to a child before bed. I can always squeeze one into a busy day, and then we’ve done something special together. The offer of a book makes a great reward - ‘When the blocks are packed away, we could read a book.’ Picture books are also portable. It’s easy to take some to the doctor’s waiting room or on long car trips.
6. They are made with love.
I love going to book launches and hearing the story behind the story and seeing all the love and hard work which has been poured into the book. It’s well worth handing over my $25 for a beautiful hardcover copy and asking the book creators to sign it for me. I also love going to the library and borrowing as many as I can carry for FREEEEEE! Or to the school fair and buying three for a dollar.
7. They work with all ages.
I love picture books with themes which both children and adults can relate to. We might enjoy the book at a different level, or maybe our reaction is the same, regardless of age. Some books sing to the heart.
Books with strong themes can be great discussion starters, with young children or older. A book might launch a discussion on what it means to be brave, how we relate to God or how we view refugees. We can discuss books with messages we don’t agree with or books which express our thoughts and feelings perfectly. Picture books are a great way to pass on values and attitudes.
8. They can develop a child’s social and emotional skills.
I love using picture books to help develop children’s social and emotional skills. When a child is sick or upset, a book is a great way to help them calm down. The right book can help a child through new stages of development, new experiences, difficult situations, or help overcome a fear. Children develop empathy by seeing the world from somebody else’s point of view in a book. When we’re reading a book together, it’s easy stop and chat about why a character did something or what you might do in that situation.
9. They can help children grow in cognitive and language skills.
Children expand their vocabulary through hearing new words in context. They learn to enjoy words and have fun with them. As babies, they learn expressive language through pointing and labelling and grow to describing pictures, predicting what will happen next or articulating their reaction to the story.
The educational value goes far beyond learning colours, numbers and alphabet. There are brilliant science and information books, and children also learn concepts and information about the world through stories. Picture books stimulate imagination and creativity, which are important cognitive skills. This learning can happen without lesson plans. All we need to do is enjoy the books together.
Reading picture books helps children learn to read. It begins with loving books.
10. What I love most about reading picture books, is what it communicates to my child.
I stop everything else I am doing to read a book. It’s a shared experience - an activity which we both enjoy. The child has my full attention and we snuggle up close.
When I read a book to my child, I am saying, ‘I love you’.
Penny Morrison is the author of the Hey! series which introduces infants to God their creator. Discover all her books by visiting the CEP Store.