Picture books thrive—and for good reason!

Picture books unpopular?!  Many parents are pressing their young children to leave picture books behind and move on to more text-heavy chapter books. Do we really need to wonder why too many children do not like to read and find reading a chore and a bore? To all parents—mindful of the increasing rigorous standardized testing in schools— know that moving your child out of the world of picture books and into the world of  chapter books is not the solution and in fact is part of the problem.

The article in the NYT drew an overwhelming uproar and as I read the letters I reflected back on a recent experience. As a consultant in an international school, I was asked to address the entire fifth grade on. …well, my assignment wasn’t very clear. “Book talk. Talk about whatever you want. ” was how my assignment was explained.  I was told I had 20 minutes at 7:50 a.m. I rolled my eyes and thought, swell; I have 100+ 5th graders, sleepy and not so interested in a mandatory assembly. After I got over my initial “Oh my!”,  a great idea came to me. Why not let them in on a secret …picture books are not just for young children. In fact, they had not outgrown their love for a picture book and   on many a day, a wise fifth grader knows only to well the solace and pleasure a picture book delivers. We spent a vibrant and wonderful 20 minutes talking about all the hidden messages in the picture books of Dr. Seuss, who began his career as a writer of advertising copy for Flitt, a bug repellant. Seuss also wrote political cartoons in 1941 because he was concerned that American isolationism left America vulnerable.  Although Seuss had no great interest in social issues, he said, “I always wanted the good guys to win.”

Here are a few of my favorite books from Seuss. They are marvelous for young children and their hidden, and not so hidden messages are captivating for an older child.

~ Yertle the Turtle is an anti-fascist tract.
~ The Sneetches is plea for racial tolerance.
~ The Lorax delivers an environmental message.
~ The Butter Battle Book is his 1984 polemic for nuclear disarmament.
~ The Cat in the Hat’s red and white striped tower of a stovetop hat has become an American icon.

Prematurely moving children out of the world of picture books is counter productive to supporting children in becoming the readers they deserve to become

If you need any more evidence, read a wonderful article: “ Children’s Librarian Says Picture Books Still Thrive.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-von-drasek/childrens-librarian-picture-books_b_761387.html


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