A disheartening article in The New York Times yesterday, "Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children," has me a bit riled up. Why are picture books in peril? Parents are pushing their children toward chapter books sooner so publishers are responding by producing fewer picture books. It's perfectly natural to encourage your child to try reading at what you might consider a higher level, but that's where the confusion lies: picture books aren't necessarily easier and chapter books aren't necessarily harder or...better
Sure, your 4-year-old is way past The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but there is a whole world of picture books geared toward children on the cusp of picture and chapter books and children should straddle these formats for a few years. Many picture books are quite sophisticated and usually have higher-level vocabulary than early chapter books. The words and images interact to support each other and produce a pleasurable reading experience that helps build lifelong readers.
Here's a link to the Times article by Julie Bosman and a quote from Dora La Porte, the children's department manager of a book store: "I see children pick up picture books, and then the parents say, 'You can do better than this, you can do more than this.' It's a terrible pressure parents are feeling — that somehow, I shouldn't let my child have this picture book because she won't get into Harvard."
Chapter books are wonderful and it's exciting to see your child working through one by him or herself. But if you're at the library or a bookstore with your child this weekend, please take a picture book home with you!
Not sure which picture books will best engage an older child? Here are some resources to help:
• Booklist - Picture Books for Older Readers
• Never Too Old: Picture Books to Share with Older Children and Teens
• Sophisticated Picture Books
• Picture Books for Older Readers Wiki
• Teach with Picture Books Blog