Whether it’s through quiet, cuddle time, conversation or comic relief, engaging the picture book crowd is a delightful task. I like to tell young readers that when we read a picture book, we don’t just decipher the words. We talk about it. We explore it. We discover it. We relate to it. We might move to it. We might even make a little noise. Because picture books aren’t just about words on a page. They’re about sounds and rhythms and poetry and language and voice and life and … pictures!
I love to stress, with kids, the importance of reading the pictures. After all, the illustrations in a picture book tell over half of the story. It’s a skill that very young children can master and feel proud of. It’s also art appreciation 101. When you ask a group of young kids, “How many of you are artists?” almost every hand goes up. So when they see picture book illustration as art, they’re introduced to the stories – including their own – that art can tell. I explore with kids the details of an illustration that might tell us more about the central story or a side story or, perhaps, even a different story, than the text reveals.
I rarely read a picture book straight through. I ask a lot of questions. I ask kids to predict what comes after a page turn. I ask them to look for clues as to how the story might end. And, most importantly, I ask them questions that might help them connect a book, in a personal way, to what they know, what they’ve experienced and the world they live in.
Young readers can feel empowered when they contribute to the conversation about a book. By showing them that I value their discoveries, they not only learn that reading a picture book is rewarding, but that they are valued as well.