LitLife

How to raise lifelong readers and writers.

THE VALUE OF A PICTURE BOOK: 5 Life-Lessons Your Child Gets From Stories

What we read helps us to become who we are.

Empathy
Reading a book is a unique opportunity to see the world from another person or thing's perspective. When a child reads a book, whether it is a fantastical story about an object come to life or a very real article about a neighboring country, he or she becomes a part of that world and sees life, however briefly, through the eyes of another. Children are uniquely able to accept and invest in the reality created in what they are reading. Chicken Sunday by Patricia Polacco is one book that can help cultivate empathy. In this book, Patricia Polacco shows how friendship can cross racial and generational lines, as she reminds us to always strive for truth and justice for ourselves and others. By reading varied stories and texts from diverse authors, our children are exposed to the unique points of view of many different people and learn to empathize with people in situations contrasting greatly from their own. Another wonderful book for thinking about empathy is Roni Schotter's Mama, I'll Give you the World. In this lovely story about a girl who wants to give her mother a very special gift. As stories like this one demonstrate, empathetic people are kinder to others and listen more carefully to those around them. It is a wonderful gift books can give.

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Patience
Many aspects of our modern lives give us instant gratification. Instant messages and emails convey our ideas across miles in just seconds. We can find answers to any question just as fast with online encyclopedias. Books are different in the most wonderful way. They allow us to savor the experience of a really compelling story. One story that can open a conversation about patience is Catching the Moon by Myla Goldberg. This is the story of a fisherwoman who becomes discouraged after spending many nights awake fishing, without being able to catch any fish. In the end, her perseverance is rewarded with not only a wonderful catch but also a new friend. Stories also help us to learn the pleasure of taking our time, deciphering meaning, and creating connections between ideas. Children delight in finishing a long book not because they are happy to be done with it, but because they are proud of themselves for taking the time to understand and discover the entire story. Classics reimagined for younger readers are a wonderful way to begin savoring books. The Canterbury Tales by Barbara Cohen and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman has whimsical paintings and is retold in language accessible to upper elementary age children. Completing a classic tale like this one or a new story that pushes us to hold on until the end is a great accomplishment for anyone!

Importance of Imagination
Imagination is a powerful force. It can give our children the power to transcend their environments, invent new ideas, develop breakthroughs, and believe in miracles. Books invite us to indulge our imaginations. They help us to cultivate them and they allow imagination to take a place of esteem and respect. Dream Carver by Diana Cohn, a story of a little boy who is inspired to create new toys based on what he imagines, will encourage children to be inspired by their imaginations and not let others discourage them. As a child reads a truly remarkable story, they are picturing that world in their mind's eye and flexing their imaginative muscles to create a world of their own. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson allows children to enter another child's imaginative world, while reinforcing the value of their own creativity. Imaginative books nurture our children to grow into people who invent and innovate, who conceive and create.

Curiosity
Similar to imagination, curiosity is a driving force. It fuels us to uncover new information and learn new skills. It is an indication that we are thinking deeply about the world around us and shows an eagerness for knowledge and understanding. Books can be a means of both fueling curiosity and satisfying it. Becoming Butterflies by Anne Rockwell and Bees Live in Hives by Melvin and Gilda Berger can answer a child's burning questions while also encouraging them to take an even closer look at the world around them. An interesting story about a faraway place or a period of history can create questions in our children that can be answered with a trip to the library or a search for articles on the Internet. A book like Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution by Laurie Halse Anderson, can even help our children rethink about topics they've learned about already. Your child's passions, interests and lessons at school can guide him or her in choosing a book that will satisfy a curiosity, and possibly inspire your child's curiosity about something else!

Community
Great children's book authors recognize that children have extraordinary power to shape their own worlds. Through reading, you can give your child a sense of his or her own power in shaping and creating a powerfully loving community. A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams can help our children to think about how importance kindness and generosity is in a community. Whether it is in the family, at school, in the larger communities of sports or friendship, stories show your child that he or she does not have to wait to become a grown-up to impact the world. Amber on the Mountain by Tony Johnston shares the story of two little girls who become friends and how one teaches the other how to read. This small gift makes a big difference in both their worlds. There are so many wonderful stories that help our children understand their own capabilities and also appreciate the communities of which they are a part.

 

Pam Allyn is the Executive Director of LitLife, a national organization specializing in innovative literacy education for schools and families.

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