Picture Books Are Worth a Thousand Words

It’s happening. Our seven-year old is transitioning from picture books to chapter books (sigh). Say it isn’t so!

It’s been such a treat to watch an emerging reader. This is our third go around and we’ve seen a similar pattern with all our boys.

They start with reading simple picture books. Then jump to the Easy Reader books with fewer illustrations and larger font. From there, they transition to easy chapter books with perhaps a few pictures (or in our case graphic novels…our boys LOVE them!) until they are reading full fledge chapter books.

Don’t get me wrong. I love that all three kids have progressed as readers and enjoy chapter books. But as creators of picture books, well, we REALLY love a good picture book.

We’ve read countless picture books with our kids over the last 12 years. They are crammed in every nook and cranny.

Each child has a bookshelf in their rooms jammed with books. I have a bookshelf in my home office and when we bought the house we installed a giant bookshelf in the room by our front door. We have bins of books in our family room, basement and car.

Books, books, books! They are never far from our reach.

Why am I lamenting the fall of picture books in our home? Maybe because it is yet ONE more sign my kids are growing up. Or perhaps it’s because picture books have taught us so very much.

8 Concepts Picture Books Have Taught our Kids

1. Social-emotional skills

Picture books teach kids social-emotional skills such as empathy, developing relationships and how to manage their emotions. They create self-awareness as the reader sees images in an effort to place themselves in the story.

I remember one book in particular called, How Full is Your Bucket? For Kids. The book taught that each of us has an imaginary bucket. The pictures had kids and pets with actual buckets floating above their heads. We could choose to fill someone’s bucket or empty it with our words and actions. Powerful stuff for a kid learning to treat others as they would want to be treated.

Or take bullying. There are several books that teach kids what a bully is and how to respond to them. Seeing fictional characters struggle and ultimately overcome different bullying scenes can empower kids.

2. Manners/Hygiene

Let’s talk boogers. They are gross and every kid picks them. Our kids were no exception. We talked until we were blue in the face about how disgusting and unhealthy it was to pick your nose. We got a book about boogers and though we had to read it MANY times for it to sink in, they eventually stopped (albeit we have seen one kid sneaking a pick or two).

Or perhaps you are getting ready to potty train? How about daily teeth brushing? We used books to introduce hygiene to our kids.

A story along with pictures hits home with little ones. They hear it and they see it. A powerful combo. We all learn differently, and for some of us, visual learning is the best way.

3. Attention Span

Picture books allow for a child to sit through a story until the end. The pictures might initially capture their attention, but we all want to hear how a good story ends, right?

Kids can also actively participate in the story as it is read by helping turn the pages. This participation keeps the kids engaged and the book has their full attention.

4. Visual Literacy

Seeing pictures helps us to interpret and understand the story. Infants read images months before they become verbal. Toddlers do years before they can read.

Our book, Following Featherbottom, has an I-Spy component on every letter page. Kids see the letter of their name and find other objects on that page starting with the same letter. This is a powerful way to recognize the first letters and sounds of words.

5. Language Development

Reading aloud with your child increases their vocabulary. Words in books may not be spoken regularly. This is an opportunity for your child to hear new words and for you to talk about what those words mean.

Kids soak up language like a sponge.

The frequency of how often a parent or caregiver reads aloud is a predictor of school success. Shared book reading has been linked to young kids’ emerging literacy ability, or the skills and knowledge children develop before they learn to read and write.

6. Life Changes

When we were expecting our second child, we scoured the bookstores for a big brother book for our oldest son. Life was about to change for him, for all of us. We wanted to get him excited for his new role, but also assure him mom and dad still very much loved him..

We didn’t exactly find what we were looking for so we wrote our own! Every Hero Needs a Sidekick is a big brother/big sister book personalized just for the child.  

There are books about death, divorce, illness, etc. written just for kids. Reading a book together is a great way to talk about difficult topics.

7. Storytelling

Picture books allow the reader to finish the story at one sitting. As with finishing a project, there is satisfaction in knowing how the story ends.

They are also simple, fast-paced and creative. Picture books are a great way to let your kids’ imaginations soar. Or as we like to say at MarbleSpark, spark an imagination!

8. Bonding

Probably my favorite benefit of picture books! I know we can still read chapter books with our kids, but it won’t be the same.

The bonding that occurred when our kids were in our laps, nestled by our side in bed or on the couch are some of my favorite moments. We could read the same book over and over and I wouldn’t mind, as long as we got to snuggle.

From Picture Books to Chapter Books

We’ve used picture books to teach our kids so much about life. Chapter books will do the same job, but we likely won’t get to experience it with them. We won’t talk about the story together as we did with picture books.

When our kids have read a story about an important topic (rather than hear it from their nagging parent’s mouths) it resonates deeper.  

Picture books may not be THE book of choice in our home for much longer, but you can bet we’ll still sneak in a few reads. Because picture books are not just for little kids – they’re for everyone.