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Why Picture Books Still Matter

"Dust Devil" is the follow up picture book to the Caldecott winner "Swamp Angel."

"Dust Devil" is the follow up picture book to the Caldecott winner "Swamp Angel."

In a post for The Children’s Book Review, Lori Calabrese addresses the diminishing role that picture books play in the lives of young children and lists a number of reasons why picture books are still important. In the past year sales of picture books have dropped, and while part of the dip can be blamed on the economy, a shift in parental behavior is also part of the cause. Today, many parents are pushing their young children to forgo the picture books for the more text-heavy chapter books in order to excellerate their reading skills and become academically competitive. But by doing this, parents are ignoring the key role picture books play in their child’s development. Among the main reasons why these charming and colorful books still matter, is the quality of their content. Chapter books may seem deceptively advanced, but “their vocabulary and sentence structure can be considered simplistic when compared with older level picture books. Many picture books are written at a higher reading level, use amazingly complex vocabularies and offer interesting plots.”

Also cited, was the fact that seeing pictures and hearing the words offers a “multi-sensory” experience that stimulates young imaginations and helps develop a sense of story. Another benefit is that “picture books allow an entirely different, more interactive communication between parent and child. Picture books allow parents to spend time talking with their children about the story, pictures and words.” The repetitive elements of many of the stories help children learn reading comprehension and phonics and can help broaden their vocabulary, as well. Finally, the best reason why picture books are important is that they are just plain fun, and reading them is an enjoyable experience for kids. “Reading should never be perceived as a chore. If you make reading a chore early on in a child’s development, they might grow to resent reading.”

51n-XbGcB5L._SL160_For those interested in sharing a quality reading experience with their young children, The Seattle Times has published a list of 9 new picture books by Caldecott Medal winners. Among the titles are Dust Devil (Schwartz & Wade, 48pgs) written by Anne Isaacs and illustrated by Paul Zelinsky, which is a follow up to their 1995 Caldecott winner Swamp Angel. In this tall tale, the story of Angelica Longrider (Swamp Angel) continues as she moves to Montana where she fights to tame a wild horse she later names Dust Devil and battles Backward Bart and his Flying Desperadoes. Also featured on the list is The Secret Cave (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 40pgs) written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, who previously won the Caldecott for Mirette On the High Wire. The Secret Cave tells the true-life story of the four French boys who discovered the stunning paintings done by an ancient primitive culture in a cave in Lascaux.