Kids are reading more than they have in a long time, and that’s a great thing. As more and more parents take the time to engage in reading activities with their kids, we are raising a next generation who will be more uniquely suited to the critical reasoning and imagination skills that will be vital to the future. Many parents, however, forego books with pictures in an effort to further build their child’s imagination. This is a valid approach, but you shouldn’t disregard pictures altogether. Here’s a look at why picture books are so important to early literacy and development.
Reading a picture book creates closeness, both emotional and physical, between parents and children. While you can sit across the room and read words to your child, using pictures works better if you are in close physical proximity to the child. Snuggle up together as you show the child the pictures. Allow them to touch the book and enjoy the closeness that will form an important bond that could last their whole life.
When children look at pictures as you read, they associate imagery with words and concepts. This can lead them to ask questions or point out what they see in the pictures. Parents can encourage this inquisitive behavior and address their child’s thoughts and ideas. This will improve your child’s critical reasoning and interpretive skills, which will translate later into academic success. A good book that is full of pictures should foster discussion.
Even the youngest children can become active participants in the process of reading while they look at the pictures you show them. When you read books that are merely text, the process of listening can become passive, while looking at images encourages the child to take a more active part in the process. They could latch on to a certain image or combination of words and imagery and want to shout it over and over again. This indicates excitement about the process, which is exactly what you want.
Children (and even adults) think in images. As a young child ages, they need something to create image associations. At an early age, a child may not know what a rabbit looks like. Showing them a picture in a book creates important associations upon which they can expand as they grow and age.
Associations can also be emotional. A book about a child who is sad can include recognizable images that enable your child to understand that other people have the same feelings as they do. They look at a picture of a child with a tear on his face, and understand intuitively what it means.
While it is important for children to create and grow their imaginations through hearing words, using picture books at an early age can help them to create the associations they’ll need to generate imaginative images on their own later. Interactive eBooks can be a fun way to get this process started. Take a look at The Old Woman in the Woods, and then explore the variety of other eBooks and fun literacy tools we have to offer!