You may think picture books are only for younger kids but think again. Patsy Lyons from Tara Book Company tells us why quality picture books are good for all ages.
Picture books are generally for the 0 to 6 year olds, but there are lots of picture books for the older child too. Picture books come in many forms, board books, hardbacks, paperbacks, big book. Board books tend to be for babies and toddlers, chunky pages they can grasp and chew. Hardbacks and paperbacks are great from about age 2 up, while big books are mainly used by teachers, they don’t wear well and would not stand up to the wear and tear of the young child.
As parents we sometimes forget that we are our children’s first and most influential teachers, especially in their early years. Quality picture books can help us teach our children so much about moral values, relationships and the world around us.
How can you tell a good picture book?
Start with authors and illustrators such as Martin Waddell (fears), Shirley Hughes (families), Anthony Browne (bullying), John Burningham (environment).
Other recommended authors – Satoshi Kitamura, Mary Murphy, Tony Ross, Jill Murphy, Eric Carle, Allan Ahlberg.
There are many more but if you have read a number of the above you will be more confident in choosing other less well known authors and illustrators.
A Picture Paints a Thousand Words
As the saying goes “a picture paints a thousand words”, this is particularly true for picture books. Mood and tone can be conveyed by colour and shadows, with very little explanatory words.
Take the work of Anthony Browne for instance, his Willy books in particular, e.g. “Willy the Wimp”. The story starts out with Willy feeling low because he’s being bullied. His mood is conveyed by the feint colour of his clothes and his shoulders are rounded down. As Willy deals with the bullies and gains confidence the colour of his clothes change to bright, strong colours, and he stands tall.
Picture Books and Messages
Most picture books have a moral message, being kind, sharing etc. Sometimes the message is for the parents, as in “Not Now Bernard”. In this book Bernard is looking for his parents’ attention, first by talking, then by being naughty. While his physical needs are being met, his emotional needs aren’t, at no time do either his mom or his dad look at him, they’re too busy.
When I read this book I realised I didn’t give my kids “time” when they needed it, I gave it when I wasn’t busy. It only takes a few minutes to stop what you’re doing and give them the attention they need. So parents can learn from picture books too.
Picture Books and Art
Exposing children to a variety of styles of artwork gives them an appreciation for good art. The fine line drawings of Shirley Hughes (Alfie gets in First) are very different to the bold lines and strong colours Mary Murphy (The Little Owl and the Star) uses. The flat drawings of David McKee (Not Now Bernard) are as distinctive as the collage work of Eric Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpillar).
Bonding over Books
Sharing books and early reading to your child has many benefits. It’s a great bonding experience, it can help them understand the world and cope with things they might otherwise be afraid of. Children can learn to face their fears in the safety of their own home on Mum or Dad’s lap. Sit a two year old on your lap and read Martin Waddell’s “Owl Babies”.
You will be amazed at the reaction of your child as the three baby owls try to cope when they wake up to find their owl mother is gone. There is some repetition in the text and the young child quickly catches on. By the second or third reading your child will start to say the words “I want my mommy”. You will experience a magical moment with your child as they engage with the book.
I encourage parents to read to their children every day/night, even when the child has learned to read themselves. This is one way of giving your child your undivided attention. If you select the right books it’s a pleasurable experience for you as well. Mum or Dad reading to them is a memory children hold with them for their entire lives, and you can’t buy that.
Tara Book Co. are based in Kilcolgan, Co. Galway, Ireland, Visit them online at www.tarabookco.ie or tel: (091) 777005
Do you read picture books with your child? Share your thoughts in the comments below.