Where the Wild Things Are

Last week two eye-popping front-page reports spot lit a sad trend in parenting: the demise of the picture book. In the rush to early reading, it seems parents tout reading chapter books over picture books. This is a big mistake. Find out why. . .

In the second report, from Paris, a glorious retrospective of Monet's work reminds us how artistic expression gives form to our thinking. The rush to read chapter books should not deprive children of artistic pleasure, or of one of mankind's deepest and most profound modes of thinking and feeling. Early reading is all about feelings, and that includes the feelings evoked through picture-book reading. As an early reading advocate, I must protest any retreat from picture books: Do buy picture books and choose chapter books with pictures!

Shocking Report

I was shocked to read Julie Bosman's front page report in the New York Times, "Picture Books, Long a Staple, Lose Out in the Rush to Read."  Is it true that parents of kindergarten and first graders are pressuring their children "to leave the picture book behind and move on to more text-heavy chapter books"--all for the sake of rigorous standardized testing? What has happened to cognition, imagining, and feeling? If you think depriving children of picture books is a good idea, just read a wonderful "critics notebook" review from the same paper in the same week, by Michael Kimmelman: "Paris Rediscovers Monet's Magic at Grand Palais."

The Magic of Pictures and Thinking

Kimmelman describes the sweeping show of over 160 of Monet's paintings as "the biggest spectacle in Europe this fall"--"a box office smash"-but most importantly for this discussion, goes on to explain why: Pictures, in this case Monet's, don't just "stimulate sun, rain and snow, but states of mind as well." The same can be said of picture books--they stimulate a state of mind in children that words alone can't achieve. "Monet's vision of places can come to inhabit and even supplant our direct memories of them," Kimmelman writes. For me, The Velveteen Rabbit--a chapter book with wonderful art comes to mind: the pictures enhance the story.

More from Kimmelman: "(Monet) seizes on the way that memory, associated with a place or image, experienced at a certain time and in a certain mood, triggers bundles of emotions and lodges itself in the mind as a kernel of pleasure and pain. . . Monet was really painting mental states, states of reflection." Anyone who has read Where the Wild Things Are knows what Kimmelman is writing about.

What great commentary on the power of the picture. It's true; a picture is sometimes worth a thousand words!

Richard Gentry is the author of a book for parents, Raising Confident Readers, available on Amazon.com. Follow him on the internet at his website, www.jrichardgentry.com, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/J.Richard.Gentry,  on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RaiseReaders,  and on his YouTube.com Channel, www.youtube.com/RaisingGentryReaders.

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