Are We Rushing Kids Out of Picture Books?

Elizabeth Bluemle -- April 1st, 2014

Next week at the ABC Children’s Institute in San Antonio, I’ll be on a panel with fellow booksellers and one librarian, talking about our experiences with adult customers and patrons who seem to be pushing children out of picture books and into chapter books at younger and younger ages.

I don’t want to post spoilers for the panel (I’ll report on the discussion next week, and I think ABA members will be able to watch the video of the panel), but I did want to ask you out there in ShelfTalker land — you parents and teachers and booksellers and librarians — if you are noticing this pressure, and why you think it’s happening. We don’t see this “age compression” in schools; teachers who shop at our bookstore seem to understand the value of both fiction and nonfiction picture books for students of all ages. But parents and grandparents seem to be balking.

Obviously, we need to educate customers about the richness of picture book language, and the huge range of styles and formats and narratives in this literary genre that is perhaps more diverse than any other. We need to remind them that, although the price of a 32-page picture book and a 300-page chapter book might be roughly the same, a child may read the chapter book once, but the picture book 1,000 times, finding more to discover with each reading.

Why do so many parents and grandparents reject even sophisticated picture books as “baby books?” Is it a misunderstanding of what picture books are? It is an outcome of the excesses of our testing-burdened, measurable-achievement-oriented educational system? Or is there a greater loss at work, as well? Has the love of stories become somehow lesser? Do we value only what is perceived as more challenging, and testable? And why is it that the same parents who readily read light, unchallenging books for their own pleasure and comfort don’t allow the same indulgence for their kids? They often want little Johnny or Samantha to chug on up the reading levels — again, a misperception, since so many picture books contain rich vocabulary  and complex sentence structure that are more challenging than many young chapter books.

There is no sinister intent on these parents’ parts, of course; they are most likely simply trying to make sure their children are well prepared, not left behind, in the academic realm. So how do we best show them the sweet and rewarding light of opening their minds to the full range of worthy reading possibilities for their kids? Inquiring minds want to know — and if you share a terrific thought in the comments, I’d be delighted to share it during the panel discussion and credit you!

(Booksellers and librarians: The ABC has prepared a fantastic flyer to use, featuring great picture books to share with older kids, along with tips for talking with parents. Be on the lookout for that next week!)

41 thoughts on “Are We Rushing Kids Out of Picture Books?

  1. Asha

    I am a preschool teacher and I read picture books everyday. I actually did not know that there is this big push on chapter books. But to think of it in the Bed time story time at the library most children are very young (1-5). I have probably 300 picture books and the number is growing. In a class we probably read around five books every day in a group and several more to individual children during free play. Not even mentioning children just looking or pretending to read on their own. We have my theme books that we read during circle time and then before nap time, we usually read library books not necessary relating to the subject. I love when children love the illustrations so much that they want to touch it. Or when child who is doing something else, stops and comes to see the picture because they are already listening to what I am reading to someone else. There is so many books that my children what to read over and over again. I was so nicely surprised when I saw in Kindergarden classrooms the books that I read to my preschoolers. I want to put some positive note to the discussion that preschool teacher and lower grades teachers are reading picture books that children love so much.

  2. :Donna Marie

    This is a subject I have felt VERY strongly about for many years, as a parent, writer and illustrator. I believe the many critical aspects of the issue/problem have been mentioned here, and I see all of them as accurate—each one a factor contributing to the “whole.” And, believe it or not, I have a couple more aspects I’d like to point out, in adding to this discussion.

    For years it was my opinion the reason there was this insistance, by publishers, to have such short word counts, had mostly to do with the lack of parents wanting to spend the time reading to their children. I found this more than disconcerting and tragic. Yes, our lives have become more overwhelming in many ways, but that has a lot to do with choice in many cases, as far as what we want to fit into a day. If the choice is a parent not wanting to miss the next episode of “American Idol” (insert programming of choice) or anything of that nature, and puts spending time with their children—including how much time reading to/with them—this is one example of the selfish, shallow course of society, in general :(

    A few months ago I found out there is more to it than that, as far as low word count in picture books. An agent told me the publishers are feeding the trend that preschoolers are beginning to read “by themselves” at a younger age—they are filling THAT need. Hence—shorter text. So, THIS is another big factor, along with parents not wanting to spend longer than they have to reading (if at all) to their children. I’ve found that, in very important ways, the publishing industry (and not just them, but it’s the one I’m closely involved with) often “shoots themselves in the foot” by being so myopic in their approach as to “what sells.” OK, so fine—why does it have to be that the entire picture book market now has to feed ONLY the younger child reading THEMSELVES while completely discounting the parent(caregiver)/child shared experience? I think my frustration is evident here : /

    The other point I’d like to make is the lack of consideration to an overall reading experience, regardless of age. So many adults ignorantly correlate formats to maturity, reading level and stigma. Just because a child is developing reading skills, doesn’t mean one format should be given up completely in order to develop. That would be like saying once you’re an adult, you need to stop reading the Sunday comics! Don’t read “Laughter is the Best Medicine.” Don’t read short stories. Don’t read a column in a paper. Skip over the accompanying illustration OR don’t read it since it must be worthless gibberish when there IS an illustration! They’re all too short for an adult’s reading level. They’re a waste of time because, if you’re GOING to read, it needs to ONLY be textbooks or non-fiction—there shouldn’t even be bookshelves dividing by genre. Let’s keep it limited to one genre and do NOT include illustrations in fiction—ever! Why is it that people accept diversity in reading interests as an adult (though some people don’t), but not for children? There is a terrible lack of self-awareness in this respect, I think.

    One trend is the increase of illustrations in chapter books and middle-grade novels, and the increased popularity of graphic novels. If done well, illustrations can enhance the story and add another dimension. There should be encouragement for variety in reading materials. In fact, I was surprised myself, at how much the illustrations enhanced and sometimes TOLD the story in STITCHES by David Small. This is a graphic novel aiimed at adults. In my opinion, it’s brilliant. It actually helped open my mind and interest in the format. And wordless picture books, when done well, are astounding. Some of the best were released just in this past year. They are so beautiful, they actually have a “magical” quality to them—both in the storytelling AND the emotional response. To name a couple: JOURNEY by Aaron Becker, and FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO by Molly Idle.

    Anyway, I agree—educating people about books, in general, but certainly picture books for ALL ages, is key. You would think publishers would be the first to focus on this, but unfortunately, what they “think” sells is what dictates :(

    I would also like to mention, I was sent here, to this wonderful (and critical) discussion through (Rear in Gear: http://zampettilw.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/another-good-question/)

  3. Maureen Bush

    As a parent I found it really hard to find more complex picture books for my kids as they got older, and even fewer of them are published now. Publishers wordcount requirements have also dropped. So it’s not just the parents and grandparents involved in this shift.

  4. Tina Wissner

    In my excperience with children and adults, I, too have come across anxious parents who want to see their children ‘move beyond’ picture books, as if PBs no longer contribute to a child’s learning to read. What about the wonder of story? The richness of character? The illustrative images found on each page turn. Children are exposed to a richer comprehension of story through PBs.

  5. Wendy Greenley

    I wonder if the publishers call to authors for shorter and shorter picture book texts has played into this at all? While the emotional richness is still there, sometimes the brevity of the text can be mistaken for a simplicity appropriate to only the youngest children. Depending on the subject matter, picture books can be enjoyed into adulthood.

  6. Alexis O'Neill

    I’ve definitely seen this at book signings – parents telling me that their sons or daughters – whose noses may barely clear the table – are reading “bigger” books than my picture books. I wonder if the point system assigned to the pervasive Accelerated Reading program has something to do with this? — a program in which picture books often only earn one point, while chapter books garner more. When schools set up competitive reading programs “for fun,” this also can send a message that “longer is better.” However, I do know that when I point out the subtleties and complexities of picture books – especially in language choices — in my presentations, adults finally “get it” as do the older kids (through high school). So how do we best reach the rest of the uninformed parents and grandparents who themselves may never have had picture books read to them after the age of 4??

    I do think that with the advent of Common Core, we’ll be seeing a return to teachers using rich trade books in the classroom including picture books at all grade levels. The term “paired readings” was on the lips of most educators, including high school teachers, that I met at a recent social studies conference. So, we might be at the beginning of a turning tide – I hope!

  7. Deborah Hopkinson

    As a picture book author, I share picture books with 4th and 5th graders at school visits to discuss the process of research, revision, and how narrative and visuals work together. They are living in a screen-based world, and almost all careers increasingly require visual literacy. At a presentation on using picture books with middle and high school students last year, one 8th grader teacher shared that in her school two groups of students read a Civil War novel — the group that read a picture book set in that time period reported a greater appreciation of the book. Many students are visual learners and picture books are great as part of text sets. And, of course, they are wonderful in and of themselves!

    I often think about Dickens and how his serialized novels in his magazine were illustrated. We separated out visuals from adult literature and considered picture books to be appropriate for young children for a long time — and I hope we will see more experimentation and integration of narrative and visual in texts for all ages (and not just electronically).

  8. Elaine Pease

    As a picture book author I’ve done countless story times at book stores and see a mostly very young audience (0-4) attending. Mothers and caregivers love this time, usually with child in lap or stroller, listening intently (mostly). This is one of the reasons the picture book word count of 500 or less has been reduced to meet attention spans. The picture book market is usually very young and siblings are off in the chapter book or easy reader sections (though a few older ones do stay for the story and seem engaged.) I say this because I also see this engagements in the kindergarten through third grade presentations when I read my picture books. They still seem to love picture books, laugh at all the right places and ask sharp questions about the characters and story. Picture books have their places, and rightfully so.

  9. Cid and Mo

    We love picture books and children do too. Some are quite sophisticated and have humour that appeals to older children. Often children memorise stories, particularly those that rhyme – an excellent way to improve language skills. The Dr Xargle series is excellent, a real laugh out loud set of books. Picture books are great!
    Cid and Mo

  10. Kerri Hall

    I am going to keep reading picture books to my daughter as long as I can. She’s doing all the early chapter books on her own. But I’m trying to keep the magic alive. You can read about it at mlreads.com

  11. Robin Smith

    As a second grade teacher, I think about this all the time. One way that I help my parents stop the pressure to chapter books is by reading aloud to them at Parents Night. I usually read a few pages from William Steig’s Amos and Boris and then a chapter from some early chapter book series. It’s the best way to highlight the difference and to show how valuable picture books are. Then, in December and January, we study new picture books that have been mentioned as Caldecott possibilities. The children read many, many picture books, engage in extensive discussions and bring their enthusiasm home.
    I read zillions of picture books aloud each year. That helps.
    Kids do think that chapter books are more respectable than picture books for all the reasons the other commenters have mentioned.
    Can’t wait to hear about your panel.

  12. Debbie Vilardi

    In the modern era, visual literacy is becoming ever more important. Many media are visually based. Kids watch TV. Teens go on Pinterest and You Tube. Picture books are a great resource for teaching visual literacy. If we push our kids away from them too soon, we lose the opportunity to develop sophistication in this literacy skill.

  13. Pauline

    As an aspiring author/illustrator, I can corroborate what Jonathan Emmett said. In the last 12 months, I’ve attended several picture book webinars and a couple of SCBWI picture book seminars and the constant message is picture books must be under 500 words. If an 800-word picture book is submitted to an editor or agent, it isn’t even read. The only possible exceptions are non-fiction, folktales, or if you’re famous. In other words, the story picture book genre is dying, because authors aren’t writing them because they’ve been told not to because parents won’t buy them because they don’t know they exist… :-p My twins are 10yo, they read books like Percy Jackson independently, and they still like picture books. Which is good, because I ain’t getting rid of them. Ever.

  14. Linda Marshall

    What about the beautiful artwork in many of the children’s picture books? This may be some of the finest art many children are exposed to. We don’t all live within driving distance to major art museums. My son is grown now but he had picture books with glorious artwork when he was little. One that was outstanding beautiful was Good King Wenceslas. I don’t remember the artist’s name but the paintings illustrating the words to the old carol were gorgeous. And you can’t say the text to Good King Wenceslas was baby easy. There are hundreds of picture books with great art and challenging texts.
    When I was a kid books like King Arthur or Robin Hood had fantastic illustrations. The Sandman books were gorgeous (the 1950s version, not Neil Gaiman’s popular graphic novels.) If parents don’t like modern picture books as too easy, let them dredge up some books from the Victorian era to the 80s, when picture books were beautiful and challenging.

  15. Spellbound

    Heidi touched on something significant. I, too, frequently hear parents say no to picture books because they want “books with words.” So how many are passing by an entire format and section of the bookstore because of a misunderstanding? But of course many who do realize that most picture books include text have the biases mentioned here earlier–thinking pictures equal easy or babyish.

    From a mundanely practical viewpoint, it’s often easier to shelve all picture books together (so large and such varying shapes compared with typical chapter books), but we do our youngest readers a disservice when we do that. As mentioned here, many longer picture books have a richer vocabulary, more sophisticated narrative, and a higher “official” reading level than the early chapter books–or even many middle grade novels. Maybe it’s better to make a point of shelving these with chapter books at similar reading levels rather than shelving by format.

    I would love to do an experiment with a captive audience, perhaps a teacher or PTO meeting, and read aloud from two texts, a picture book with rich vocabulary and a typical super-simple chapter book (from a laptop or a printout, so that no one can make assumptions based on the format of the book) and let the audience compare their impressions of how challenging each is. I bet a lot of minds would be blown, or at least some assumptions shaken.

    If it’s true that sources like AR credit more points across the board to anything that’s a chapter book rather than a picture book, however… that’s going to be hard to fight against. I wonder if the powers that be at Accelerated Reading Central would listen to a reasoned plea to change that? I’ve certainly witnessed my share of parents who won’t buy books that aren’t on the AR list. I suspect parents like that don’t want their kids “wasting” time reading free books that aren’t on the list, either. :/

  16. Tracy

    I’m not in children’s publishing, so I’m coming at this from the angle of a parent of children, currently ages 9-17. Honestly, picture books bored me. I couldn’t wait until my kids were old enough to sit still long enough to listen to some of my favorite chapter books: Junie B., Fudge, The Great Brain, Ramona, Harry Potter. We’ve read a ton. And once I started introducing them to the chapter books, they really weren’t as interested in reading the picture books for themselves any more. Maybe I did them a disservice in skipping ahead? But really, it was for my own sanity.

  17. Elle

    I’d love a list of recommendations for a 6-year-old, increasingly independent reader. All too often the trend towards picture books with 300 or so word limits are, indeed, limiting – for her as a listener and commenter and for me, reading out loud. We cherish our time reading together, but want words as detailed and as multi-faceted as the wonderful art surrounding them.

    1. Heidi Powell

      Elle asked for recommendations for her 6 year old. I’ll offer a few of my favorites, which include fiction and nonfiction. As someone mentioned earlier, the picture book is a format, not a genre, so don’t forget about biographies, science and history. Try: BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY, THE SECRET RIVER, ANATOLE, THIS IS THE ROPE, PLANTING THE TREES OF KENYA, MANJIRO, MOONSHOT, LOCOMOTIVE, THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND, THE LITTLE SHIPS. O.K., I’ll stop, hard as it is.

  18. Donna Rauch

    Thank you so much for bring up this topic! This is one that is very important to me, as these kinds of parental interactions come at such a critical time in a child’s reading development.

    I co-supervise a children’s department in a bookstore and I see this very often. in my particular situation, I find that my folks who are ready to write off picture books for their 5-7 year olds simply don’t have a depth of knowledge. I admit that I ALWAYS cringe when I hear someone say that picture books are too babyish. But I immediately switch to “educator” mode and spend time with that customer, explaining the intricasies. First and foremost, that this is a genre that includes an extremely wide range of reading levels. And we go on from there. I work in an affluent neighborhood, with a plethora of elite private schools and yes, the parents are always striving for their kids to do better. However, I don’t find this to be the driving issue within the context of the picture book debate.

    What I find also, is that my parents do not have a firm understanding of the learning to read process. I find this across the genres. But in terms of the picture book issue, I see a teaching opportunity there as well. As with all of us, chilren’s development/success with reading is of utmost importance to me. I find that a number of my parents don’t know what they don’t know. Meaning they don’t always understand that they are unclear about the learning to read process.

    I have happily spent a lot of time working with parents on this issue so that they can make informed decisions when buying books for their children.

    I think education is absolutely the key and I have to say most of my parents are receptive.

  19. Elizabeth Bluemle

    The teacher issue has two different pieces: one is the use of picture books as teaching tools, which we see all the time. Picture books are a handy length for lessons, and are perfect for illustrating one or two themes (or other areas of interest). The second piece is looking at what teachers expect their students to be reading independently, and it’s absolutely possible that teachers are pushing kids away from picture books when it comes to individual reading. Sad, but possible, and sounds like it’s happening for many of you out there.

  20. Heidi Powell

    The comments here reflect our experience as booksellers of children and teen books in an affluent metropolitan area. One thing I’d like to add: it surprises me how many adults, when asked if they’d like a selection of picture books, respond no, they want books with words. Maybe we need to do a better job of educating adults about picture book basics.

    1. Sandy Brehl

      I agree. I have taught the topic of using picture books at all ages and in all subjects to preservice teachers who were stunned to open the covers and find words inside. They thought picture books meant the same as wordless books. We need to build better understanding of this format.

  21. Carol Moyer

    We see plenty of pressure from schools to be reading chapter books in first grade. Picture books are for preschool and kindergarten. It is much harder to stand up to a teacher’s recommendation than to a parent’s desire. We can talk with parents and grandparents about the language richness and sophistication in picture books. Much trickier when grappling with a school assignment, such as a biography for second graders that has to be at least 200 pages! There sit the beautiful picture book biographies with a depth and scope in illustration as well as text that are just right for these readers. It is sad. I see it as the result of forcing sophistication earlier and earlier. What was read in high school is now assigned in middle school, etc.

  22. rockinlibrarian

    The biggest culprit I see in my public library is Accelerated Reader. Kids get more points for longer texts, and the average picture book is worth only half a point, so kids grab on to something longer as soon as possible rather than waste their time on a book and a quiz that’s only going to get them half a point. But the kids who are most motivated by Accelerated Reader also tend to have parents who are motivated by Accelerated Reader– or at least, who tend to push for chapter books and for not-reading-anything-marked-below-your-reading-level. So it’s probably compounded.

  23. Carol Chittenden

    Maybe the rush through picture books is so they can rush through story books and hurry on to graphic novels? Those are probably easier to read while playing video games.

    We still find a pretty strong market for GOOD picture books. But if I were an adult faced with re-reading some of the stuff that’s in catalogues, I’d want to move on to story books too.

    The one that puzzles me is why it’s so hard for customers to connect with the fabulous wordless books that are out there, offering as they do many rich opportunities for children to express themselves in imaginative language.

  24. Jonathan Emmett

    If children are being rushed out of picture books, I suspect one factor that might be driving it is an increasing tendency among publishers to select shorter picture book texts.

    When I first started working in children’s publishing 19 years ago the rule of thumb was that picture book texts should not exceed 1,000 words. These days many publishers are reluctant to take anything over 500. You can still tell a great story in 500 words, but richer more complex storytelling is often better suited to a longer word count. Rightly or wrongly, I think many parents equate age appropriateness with word count and believe that if a picture book only takes five minutes to read instead of ten or fifteen, it may be time to move the child along to something more “challenging”.

    I’ve nothing against short picture books. My favourite picture book is ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, which is a mere 337 words, but it’s a shame that publishers seem increasingly averse to longer texts. A picture book with 1,000 words costs the same to produce as one with 100 and the author will receive the same royalty. So surely there’s room for both.

    Anita Silvey wrote a great School Library Journal piece on the same theme here:
    http://www.slj.com/2011/11/books-media/picture-books/make-way-for-stories-theres-a-good-reason-why-people-are-passing-up-picture-books/

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle

      Excellent point. I often recommend the Bill Peet books to kids; can you imagine getting those published as picture books today?

    2. Tiffany

      Jonathan makes a great point. I was often guilty of passing up a longer book for story time because it was too long for my crowd. Those longer, richer picture books can be harder to circulate because they have a limited audience, but once I discovered one I loved, I shared it in every way possible. This is such a troubling debate as I start my parenting journey!

  25. Timothy Tocher

    As a former third grade teacher, I can vouch that this “trend” has been around for decades. Too many parents see it as a step backwards if their children pick up a picture book once they’ve begun to read chapter books. The literature program in my school featured great picture books, both fiction and nonfiction that demanded sophistication from the reader (Anyone remember PADDLE TO THE SEA?). Yet there were objections. All we can do as educators/booksellers is fight the good fight.

  26. Beth

    Parents’ choices are changing. Today’s picture book itself is morphing into something more like a chapter book. Seven out of ten picture books publishers present to Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club have two or three times as much text as what was in the picture books I loved (Madeline, What Do You Say, Dear? Where the Wild Things Are–exactly those brilliantly inventive, multi-layered, always surprising books you’re talking about). Publishers have to stand up to the school market to preserve this umique format and give back to adults what children are no doubt missing.

  27. Peter Glassman

    I keep hearing about this trend. I believe it was first reported in the New York Times about a year or so ago. But my staff and I have not seen any indications of it at all. Even when publishers were complaining about picture book sales being off, our sales of picture books were as robust as ever. And our parent and grandparent customers definitely embrace the importance of sharing picture books with their 4-6 year olds. Certainly, some parents want young chapter books for reading aloud a chapter-a-night to their children, but that’s nothing new. That’s been a staple of our business for over 30 years.

    Is this really a trend elsewhere? Or is this one of those things where a few out-of-the-ordinary experiences get perceived as a “trend”?

    1. Elizabeth Bluemle

      Peter, our sales of picture books are as robust as ever, too (we never saw that big dip that seemed to plague publishing a few years ago), but especially for younger kids (up to age five). More and more often, we hear parents of kindergarteners and first graders steering those young ones away from the picture book section toward the chapter books. I know what you mean about true trends and those anecdotal accounts that get turned into perceived trends; I hope this is one of them, but I have to say, we do see this more often.

  28. Jennifer

    “It is an outcome of the excesses of our testing-burdened, measurable-achievement-oriented educational system?”

    Yes. We, public librarians, often hear, “My child is 6, but reads at an 8th-grade level?” or something along those lines. I’ve also met parents who only let their children read non-fiction and perceive fiction as too lowbrow. And parents who only let their teenagers read biographies or autobiographies because they are “serious” literature; Traditional YA is seen as too frivolous. I often worry that they are inherently turning children away from reading.

  29. Juliana Lee

    The short answer to your question is, YES! The longer answer involves the push to get readers into chapter books. A lot of this comes from the kids themselves, second graders want to be fifth graders. Parents want their kids to be ‘advanced’. And now publishers are pushing for shorter and shorter picture books which just validates the kids and parents feelings that picture books are for babies and feeds the frenzy. Look at the most of the picture books published in the last few years… under 500 words, lots of illustrations carrying the story, not much in the way of substance for an older child’s mind. Even my favorite current picture books, play to the quick story and humor, which is easily understood by the 5-7 year old and so they move up a level. Yes, they can read the words in a chapter book, but they’re missing so much in the way of storytelling by moving up too quickly. (In my humble opinion.)

  30. Cindy Williams Schrauben

    Unfortunately, I think there are a number of factors at play here – many of which you have discussed; the burden of testing, the rush for our kids to grow up and to watch them achieve at a higher level. However, I think there are other issues buried in this discussion as well. Our lives have become so hurried and over-scheduled that, in an attempt to streamline their lives, parents take the path of least resistance. The reality is, kids read chapter books on their own and are accustomed to parents reading picture books to them. Easy solution? Give your kids chapter books. As educators and authors we recognize the importance of the time spent reading to children, but parents are struggling for that extra 15 minutes per day. Yes, 15 minutes! Reading to children must be a priority, but is not always the easy choice. I will now step off my soap box. :)

  31. Cici

    I think you are mistaken in suggesting “age compression” is not coming from the schools. In my experience teaching 1st grade, constant pressure is put upon the children to move up to chapter books. Students who read chapter books received extra rewards and recognition from the Principal. The phrase “Why are you reading that book, you are smart enough to read chapter books now.” was and is common. Picture books are looked down upon. In addition, school propaganda is a constant flow of “If your child is not reading the harder books they will fail in life.” A bit dramatically stated perhaps but it is the constant message. As a librarian I spend a good deal of time trying to convince teachers to let the kids read what they are drawn to. Unfortunately the pressure is often too great and by high school students find reading to be a burden.

  32. David McMillan

    As a parent here in the UK I have definitely noticed and commented on this pressure. I have been astounded at the speed with which parents have pushed their kids towards chapter books (4-5 years in my experience).

    I think there are 2 parts to this:

    1) Parents think that the pictures are only there as a crutch to help the child to read, so as soon as they have enough words you have to push them on to chapter books. This is very wrong headed in my opinion but if you are not from a bookish background as the my parent friends often weren’t then you can see that this reductive thinking can take hold. We do need to try to educate parent to understand that the pictures enrich a book and that they are teaching all kinds of things about narrative structure, unreliable narrators, context, etc etc.

    2) Some parents who are anxious to see their kids be at the top of the class want to tick off the picture book stage and move on to chapter books as quickly as possible. in order to prove how advanced they are the picture books are quickly dumped. Its ironic that their kids are probably missing out on actually achieving a richer understanding of reading and narrative as a result.

    I still enjoy picture books as well as fiction with my son at age 7 and we still find picture books a rich source of discussion and learning.

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