Picture Books Are for Everyone!
Many adults think of picture books as the “easiest” form of literature for kids to consume and may even prematurely rush children to early reading with easy chapter books as soon as possible. We can understand this thought, given chapter books are one of the first steps into a child learning to read on their own, but picture books have a lot more to offer than beautiful illustrations and fewer words. Over the years, these visual stories have shown how important they are to not only young children, but middle schoolers, and even high schoolers. Picture books hold a certain magic to them. A visual storytelling adventure, where art and words come together and create something special that inspires a child’s imagination. A text-heavy book is not necessarily a more valuable resource compared to our visual storytelling friends. In fact, picture books have quite a bit to offer! You don’t have to look far to see the power these books possess; we’ve got you covered on all there is to know about picture books and their importance!
Benefits of Picture Books
Before a child knows how to read, they enjoy looking at colorful pictures. Goofy and exaggerated illustrations seem to be a big favorite in the early years. They are looking at a big frown and know that means someone is unhappy or a toothy grin and know the character is feeling joy. When stories are read to them, they are already learning to recognize how what they are hearing relates to the artwork presented. This visual literacy is a huge building block for future reading. To be able to decode images is just as important as reading text. The harmony of words and images allows the book to be multi-sensory and stimulates a child’s mind and imagination. After all, visual language is still language!
Diversity in picture books is very important as this helps future readers begin to see themselves in the stories they read, but it also provides new ways to look at the world and experiences. A child seeing their cultural representative, a character that looks like them, a family that matches their own, helps them see themselves as readers and builds self-esteem. It also helps children learn about those different from them and promotes respect and empathy! For ideas on diverse picture books, check out My Footprints and A Different Pond by author Bao Phi, and Being You by Alexs Pate.
We’ve established that reading a picture book helps a child to better connect with the narrative. The pictures have meaning and increase comprehension of the text. Interestingly, picture books oftentimes actually using higher level vocabulary words! That’s right, many picture books are written at a higher reading level and have more sophisticated plot lines. This helps expose children to new words as they can use the context clues from the images to decode meaning. A more complicated plot and vocab makes for an interesting and engaging story, increasing a child’s enjoyment of reading and learning. This is especially important in new readers and can motivate them to become more independent readers.
Being read a picture book, whether by a parent, teacher, older sibling, or other close adult, helps develop a bond with a child. It provides an opening for discussion and a time to interact with the book. An adult can ask a child questions about the plot, the characters, how they are feeling, in a way to help with overall comprehension. Discuss lessons the book may have provided, such as ethics and moral focused story lines. How did a character overcome a task and show tenacity? What emotions were present in the text and in the illustrations? Follow a cast of characters in each story like Katy Hudson’s Too Many Carrots, A Loud Winter’s Nap, The Golden Acorn, and The Perfect Birthday Recipe, which focuses on friendships and social emotional learning. Analyze the book together to build connections not only with the book itself, but with each other!
What helps us all become better at something? Repetition! Many people know that when a child finds a picture book they enjoy, that book will be the bedtime story for the next few weeks. This is incredibly beneficial for a child learning to read and think more critically. Reading a story over and over again is an opportunity to view the story from different angles, viewpoints, and experiences. Look at each time as a brand-new telling of the story. Open up a dialogue to have a child participate in the story a different way. Another benefit of repetition in picture books, is the child has heard it before and knows what will occur. They can then help with the next line they know is coming, notice details that hint at the ending they didn’t see before, and continue to inspire their visual thinking.
Overall, the benefits of picture books are:
- Builds visual literacy
- Exposes higher level vocabulary and complicated stories
- Helps build language skills
- Great for read-aloud experiences
- Introduces the concept of reading for those that can’t yet
- Learns new words
- Gains letter knowledge
- Bonds child with who is reading to them
- Opportunities to discuss and analyze the book
- Develops critical thinking skills
- Increases engagement
- Motivates to read independently
- Creates dialogue around sensitive subjects (bullying, death, divorce)
- Promotes empathy and social skills
- They’re fun!
Different Types of Picture Books
Picture books is a pretty broad term if you think about it. It is a book that combines words and text and is typically intended for children. But just like any type of book, picture books come in a wide variety of topics, genres, illustrations, and writing styles. Think about your childhood favorite picture book. Was it fiction? Believe it or not, nonfiction picture books are huge in the literary world! They are a fantastic source for kids to learn biographies of influential people, historic events, or to learn a fun science project. Nonfiction picture books can play a prominent role in the classroom by providing another resource for Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science standards. Some awesome nonfiction Capstone favorites are The Escape of Robert Smalls: A Daring Voyage Out of Slavery, The Brave Cyclist: The True Story of a Holocaust Hero, and Fiery Night: A Boy, His Goat, and the Great Chicago Fire. They promote lifelong learning and curiosity in children and help them engage in the world around them. Here are a few other types of picture books:
These are usually made for newborn babies to around 2 years old. They have thick paperboard pages to combat wear and tear from baby hands and mouths. There may be more interactive elements to these books such as cloth, noise, or popups to engage a baby or allow the reader to make the story more exciting. Our Hello Genius books are favorites among toddlers because of their fun stories with familiar animals, repetitive text, and bright, energetic illustrations. Parents and caregivers love them because they are the perfect guides for a child’s first steps in social emotional learning, self-care, and manners.
A type of picture book made to explain or introduce an idea or activity. This includes the alphabet, counting, colors, times, and shapes.
Designed to have more of a structure similar to a chapter book but uses a more limited vocabulary. Illustrations are still included on every page.
A story made up of only pictures! A child can create their own story through the illustrations, especially when they are at a pre-literacy age. Capstone’s Here I Am, a story about a boy and his family and their immigrant experience in America and Flood, about the effects of a flood on a family and their home, are wonderful places to start.
Features fewer images and usually they are in black and white. Just as their name suggests, they are the bridge for a reader to begin reading chapter books.
Tells a nonfiction story in a picture format that can help more reluctant nonfiction readers become interested and provide them fun facts through visual storytelling. Examples of Capstone include Mamie on the Mound, about the first female pitcher to play on a men's professional team and Karl’s New Beak, a book about a bird who with the help of the Smithsonian Institute, was able to fix his broken beak with a 3D printer!
Picture books also come in a wide range of genres! Whether you are looking for a funny story (check out our Do Not Bring Your Dragon series!), books that tie in to the curricular (Bears Make the Best series), superhero books (Save the Day, Wonder Woman! and Bedtime for Batman), fairy tales (Help Wanted, Must Love Books), and so much more!
Picture books feature immersive storylines, engaging content, beautiful illustrations, and makes reading fun for young readers! Harness the power of picture books and let your imagination run wild!