For today’s topic for Share a Story Shape a Future, I’m going to let you in on my secret of great read-aloud success: Reading Picture Books until the kids actually roll their eyes and walk away.
Now they may roll their eyes and yet sit down. Why? Because they want to read these books, but are afraid that they’re too old. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an excited kid pulling out picture books at the library only to hear a parent yell, “Those are baby books! Look for a real book to read.” When I can intervene, I share that I love picture books myself and one is never too old to enjoy them. And then I whack the parent on the head with Knuffle Bunny Too.
It’s great to also read longer books to children, though I do believe that there are parents who use books that are too big with kids that are too young. But there’s room for both types of books, and they each add different elements to reading growth. Picture Books offer short stories and/or concepts that help kids build their comprehension skills. They offer practice in finding connections to other books or their own lives. Picture Books have become a source of some amazing artwork, a subject that receives little attention in schools. They reinforce the concepts of good storytelling or voice or imagery. And if the book happens to be bad at storytelling, voice, or imagery, then that’s a good lesson for why one book works better than another.
When I read a book to a class, I take questions or responses at the end. At the beginning of kindergarten, most of the kids only reply that they liked the book. I gently push back with questions. What part? Why? How did it connect? Which book did you like better? By the end of that year, some will be ready to answer these questions, and with each grade it’s a few more kids. By third grade, I had my pinnacle moment when a boy connected the book Clancy the Courageous Cow where the Belted Galloways can’t eat in the same field as the bossy Herefords to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement. My work there was done.
Picture books offer the perfect opportunity, in a classroom or one-on-one, to practice comprehension and connection, to experience art and imagery, to learn analysis and comparison. My own experience shows that the kids are only getting good at these skills in third grade (and that was a gifted class), but people are pushing these books out by first grade. It’s especially bad when parents become obsessed with the Reading Game, where one’s self-worth or the self-worth of one’s child is determined by his impressive Reading Level. (Don’t play this game. There are no winners.)
Picture Books come in many forms, and there’s something for everybody. There are ones that are more directed to toddlers, preschoolers, or school-age kids. There are Picture Books that are collections of poems or biographies or informational books. There are fairy tale and folk tale and religious picture books. There are amazing new books and timeless classics. Make them part of your read-aloud sessions, and if the kids eventually roll their eyes and walk away, enjoy them yourself.
Find more posts on reading aloud at Share a Story Shape a Future and today’s host, Book Chook.