By Amy Hackworth.
Few things make me happier than sitting between my two boys with a stack of picture books to read. When all three of us are caught up in the story, laughing at the jokes or admiring the illustrations, I feel like the parenting stars have aligned. Combine these moments of parenting satisfaction with the fact that I’ve never transitioned to new phases of life very well, and that probably explains why we’re still reading picture books nearly every night to our six- and eight-year old boys.
This may not be typical, according to a 2010 New York Times article, ominously titled Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children. The article primarily cites parents’ desire to advance kids’ reading abilities, a not-too-surprising indication of our culture’s focus on achievement. But perhaps we’re also eager for our kids to meet beloved characters we grew up with like Laura, Milo, and Charlie, or new friends like Harry and Clementine.
I’ve loved introducing the boys to chapter books, and I’m delighted that they’re both reading other books independently, but, for me, picture books still have so much to offer that they’re an absolute mainstay at our house.
Among the many virtues of beloved picture books — clever text, smart rhymes, ingenious illustrations, lovable characters, sweet, powerful and funny life lessons, to name a few — my favorite thing is the space it creates for our family to slow down and engage in something meaningful together.
The best picture books generate family jokes, open the door for great discussions, and lend value to our own stories. They create a unique imaginative space where we’re reading pictures as well as words, and developing a rich visual vocabulary together. On really good days, the ideas and illustrations we discover spark our own creative projects. And what would I do without the associated snuggles?
Have you noticed a trend away from picture books? Or are picture books alive and well in your family? What’s your experience transitioning in or out of new reading phases?
Little girl reading by Sandro Mori.
P.S. — If you need suggestions to jump start your own snuggles, see Gabrielle’s Top 50 Picture Books.