Friday, October 8, 2010

Pictures are Fundamental

I was clicking through various news articles when I came across this one, from Oct. 7th in the NYT's: Picture Books No Longer A Staple For Children .  WHAT???

Not only does it make me quiet sad that parents would prevent a child from enjoying such an innocent pleasure but the reasons they do so are misguided, to say the least.

Picture books do NOT impede a child's intellectual development. In fact a well written picture book or a well constructed picture book enhances reading, intellectual curiosity and creativity. 

Often the picture contains "side comments" or jokes or other interesting reference to the text itself, a playful way of stimulating the very necessary habits of reading textbooks when graphs and other images not only contribute to the text but are important for absorbing the information. 

Wordless books and picture books stimulate writing skills; present a child with a wordless book or ask them to make up a story to go with a picture book and voila` your child is a writer!

Picture books often present complex ideas and words as the expectation is the parent will be reading the book to the child and thus able to explain the ideas and the words. I learned this when I tried to take out picture books from our library on the Yishuv (Israeli settlement) and found the words much more complex then the words in chapter books. 

Picture books allow the child to read to the parent  who is too tired to do so creating a feeling of competency in the child. Of course the warmth and joy of cuddling with a parent cannot be underestimated.

Many of wordless books and picture books are works of art; they help a child appreciate form, color, perspective, balance. Art and music are important for overall brain development. They help a child (and adult) see and hear in a way different from ordinary speech and sight. They present complex ideas in an abstract form which in itself stimulates higher thinking.

Parents who seek to push their children to the "next level" are not doing so for their child's sake. A child develops best when his or her own learning potential, strengths and weakness are respected. They are not even doing it for their own sake in the as the short term "pleasure" for the parent in being able to brag that one's child is now reading (or reading a book several grades ahead or whatever) is lost when the child "several grades later" has not progressed or has even fallen behind because skills they should have garnered by going at their own pace were never covered. By 18 or so most children are on par with each other, and by 30, even geniuses are, for the most part, where their friends are: struggling to make a life with whatever skills they have.

We need, as parents, to stop seeing our children as extensions of ourselves and understanding that they are people in their own right.

Respecting a child's means accepting a child for who they are, and respecting any person is the best way to help them reach their highest potential. And isn't that our end goal in terms of being a parent?

(I found this article after I wrote the part about picture books being a work of art. The article expands about what I thought and I think it makes for some interesting reading in its own right.)
Art and Picture Books