The Ultimate Block Party's Blog

Picture This: A World Without Picture Books?

Posted on: November 14, 2010

Do you remember that magical feeling of curling up in the lap of a loved one and ‘reading’ a brightly colored and beautifully illustrated picture book when you were a child?  You always knew that there was something special in that experience – from the time you got to spend with the people you love to the creativity and imagination you relied on to help tell an amazing story.  But research is telling us two key things.  First, picture books help kids to develop key skills that lead to becoming successful readers and thinkers.  And second, picture books are starting to disappear!

Mariska Hargitay & her family reading together at the Ultimate Block Party.

Emergent literacy skills are the ‘building blocks’ children need to learn how to read in the future. For a child to be able to read, he must know which way to hold a book (upside down or right-side up!), which way to turn the pages, that we start reading the page on the left rather than the one on the right, that those squiggly things on the pages are different from pictures  (even if they can’t read the words!), and that the last page means that the book is over are all skills that help children to become successful readers in the future. So, how do children learn these skills? One simple way is to surround your child with books and to engage them in story-time!

This sounds like common sense, but according to this article in the New York Times, picture books are starting to disappear from today’s bookstores, libraries, and homes!  The article highlights the power of picture books and the perspectives of today’s parents.  But we also recommend that you check out the Letters to the Editor about this topic – we think that they show how today’s parents, researchers, and educators truly feel about picture books and how important they are to our children.

But there is great news!  There are still AMAZING picture books that you can buy for your family.  Check out The Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2010 list published last week by the New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly “Best Children’s Books 2010 for some great recommendations.  Picture books and story time are exactly what your child needs to build the skills – from emergent literacy skills, to creativity, curiosity, imagination, social skills, content knowledge, and communication – which are the real building blocks of 21st century success!  It’s time to read!

Interested in Learning More?

Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2003). Einstein never used flash cards: How our children really learn and why they need to play more and memorize less. Emmaus, PA:  Rodale Books. (Translated into Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Indonesian).

Jalongo, M. R., Dragich, D., Conrad, N. K., & Zhang, A. (2002). Using wordless picture books to support emergent literacy. Early Childhood Education Journal, 29(3), 167-177.

National Early Literacy Panel. (2009). Developing early literacy: Report of the National Early Literacy Panel. Jessup, Maryland: National Institute for Literacy.

This blog was written by Dr. Jennifer Zosh, Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine.

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