Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Some short thoughts on why picture books are so important

The young child hearing the words of a picture book being read, and looking at the pictures all the while, 'knows more' than the voice only saying the words! The child 'sees' what the text is not saying. This is great for a child's self-awareness and confidence.

Parents who share hundreds of picture books with their under-5s enable their children to make cognitive leaps through trying to interpret the logic and meanings suggested by the unstated differences between the pictures and the text.

I think it's much more than 'inference'. It's interpretation, cognition, logic, symbolism, holding several ideas in the head at the same time, the germs of abstract thought through analogy etc etc.

Curriculum which narrows responses to books to ‘retrieval’, ‘inference’, ‘chronology’ and ‘presentation’ cut off the ‘interpreting response’ which explores logic, cognition, emotion, empathy and ideas.Irony: this disadvantages those who didn’t have hundreds of picture books!

Tweeter: “...early reading books must include words which may be hard to decode to keep a child's interest.”

(My reply) ...or ideas, mysteries, excitements, tensions, fears, loss, hope, yearnings, wishes, dreams, reveries, boasts, downfalls, musicality...

Let’s not get trapped by the word ‘vocabulary’. Language is much more than vocab. What helps children is providing processes (books, games, experiments,outings) that are conceptually rich and which encourage leaps of interpretation.

Every time a child tells a story in response to a story they’ve read or heard, they’re selecting a common element from both and creating or affirming a schema. It’s the first step in abstract thought. We should aid this and not cut it off with a plethora of ‘retrieval’ questions.

Prediction is one of the pleasures of reading. Authors embed deliberate prediction-potential situations in their writing as if to say, ‘I hope you do some predicting now!’

Literature can’t be dismissed or patronised as ‘pure imagination’. It’s the mix of feelings and ideas attached to beings we recognise and care about. So literature can enable us to grapple with abstractions while we think we’re dealing with emotion. Or vice versa.

Starting from speech bubbles on murals at Pompeii, picture books, cartoons and graphic novels have evolved to tell multimodal stories in ways that ask readers to make leaps of understanding as they hop between text and image.

Picture books enable children to make cognitive leaps between text and picture as they figure out the relationship between word and image. This advances logic, perception, reason...and much more.