Sometimes as homeschool parents we can unwittingly value our kids’ reading for themselves as more important than them being read to. Sometimes when we emphasize kids reading independently we can unwittingly devalue the importance of reading enjoyable stories together.
We spend so many hours on letter sounds and sight words that once our children can decode a sentence for themselves, it’s tempting to turn them loose with the early readers and leave the picture books behind.
While it’s certainly important for emerging readers to get practice reading independently, there’s so much to be gained by continuing to share picture books with children of all ages. Here are a few of the reasons picture books deserve a place in your homeschool regardless of the age of your children.
Picture books provide rich and varied language.
Picture books are a beautiful way to expose children to more complex and sophisticated vocabulary than they will encounter in easy readers or chapter books. A good picture book like Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney will captivate your child with masterful storytelling while stretching their vocabulary and building reading comprehension. Don’t deprive your child of high quality language by giving up on picture books before their time.
Picture books fill our hearts and minds with amazing art.
Some of today’s best artwork can be found within the pages of a picture book. Books like Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak or The Tortoise and the Hare by Jerry Pinkney provide our children with a visual feast. What better way to expose our children to museum quality art for a fraction of the cost (and stress!) of a trip to the art museum than in the pages of a quality picture book?
Picture books inspire creative projects and imaginative play.
Whether it’s setting up chairs and couch cushions as an imaginary train after reading Freight Train by Donald Crews or dressing up as pioneers to reenact the Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, reading picture books can set the stage for hours of imaginative play. This is just the sort of play that is so beneficial for kids, giving them the chance to experiment with social scenarios, practice their growing vocabulary, and engage in sensory exploration.
Picture books allow children to grapple with hard things.
Life is filled with painful realities, and exploring these challenges through story allows children to encounter difficult topics without being overwhelmed by them. Stepping into a story and experiencing a difficult situation through someone else’s eyes gives our children practice in empathy and gives them a depth of character that they can draw on when they face adversity. Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming and Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco are some of my favorite titles for showing the value of friendship and loyalty in difficult times.
Picture books fit in your busy life.
With a picture book you can be transported to another world, savor it for fifteen minutes, and still be done in time to get dinner on the table for your family. The time commitment is small, but the rewards are great! And if you have a wide range of ages represented in your family, they are one of a handful of activities that can be enjoyed by everyone in the family.
Picture books are fuel for connection.
Picture books are warm and inviting and made to be shared. It’s hard not to feel close and connected with your child when you are coming together around a beautiful story. A regular read-aloud habit creates a prime opportunity for parent-child bonding. If you just sit down on the couch and start reading, you’re sure to have a child by your side before long.