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The Pure Magic Of Picture Books

Posted: November 30, 2012

November is International Picture Book month. One Indian mom shares how picture books help in teaching kids all about life! 

By Richa Jha

Long before my son’s classmates started teasing him about the round glasses he wore, he had understood that it was okay to look different than the crowd. Long before my daughter learnt to spell ‘jealous’, she knew exactly how it felt to have a best friend come and plonk himself on her darling granddad’s lap. And long before my kids’ first set of pet fish died, they had formed their own ideas about dealing with loss. 

Blame it on the picture books for children that they have been over-fed on ever since they could barely keep their eyes open for ten minutes at a stretch, my littlings have turned into precocious we-kinda-know-what-you-mean kids! 

Picture books: Teaching kids life skills

When someone asks me why I don’t tire of doing my picture books for children rap before friends or strangers, I say because there is no other life coach substitute for a child that young. No parent or teacher can do what a good classic picture book can.

A good picture book plays a child’s own view of the world back to her; it understands her big little concerns and throws back ways to deal with them.

A good picture book plays a child’s own view of the world back to her; it understands her big little concerns and throws back ways to deal with them. It brings a child’s world of joys, mischief, imagination, flights of fantasy, fears, anxieties and much more right into – as the NYT bestselling author of picture books Doreen Cronin puts it – the child’s hands for her to “hold them with both hands, sit with her feelings, and confront them” at the turn of every page. All the while, playfully, with humour, and many a time, without a single word written on any page.

Picture books for children help them get a good grasp of words and language early on. And I haven’t even begun on the can of wonderment that picture books for children open before the young, eager minds and how they can make a child fall in love with words and books and pictures for life!

Picture books for children in India

It’s a pity that we have very few Indian titles that offer this kind of an engaging and wholesome reading (and reading aloud) experience. But I am confident that we will get there soon. The British Council Libraries in the bigger metros usually have an exceptionally well-stocked and regularly updated picture book section. A family membership, which entitles you to check-out books from that section, is worth every rupee that you shell out for it.

I have been an unapologetic picture book-sucker for as long as my kids have been around in my life. What started off as our bed time night-cap soon turned into an obsession with me when I discovered the uncannily familiar world of you and me and everyone in there, the dollops of wisdom (yes really, even for adults), universal values and concerns, and the un-ending supply of non-didactic fun, all so beautifully packed between the pages of these books.

Reading aloud to my kids with them and a book in my lap became a classic fool-proof recipe for family bonding.

Reading aloud to my kids with them and a book in my lap became a classic fool-proof recipe for family bonding. And as the minimal words (an average of 400 to a book) and the funny, often moving-often rib tickling text and illustrations opened up layers and layers of interpretations, our snuggle time became our circle-time for teaching my kids every possible subject under the sun. Even what my vagina and they looked like when each of them popped out of there!

It feels satisfying to see my children’s hearts too go “hoot hoot” at the very mention of picture books. My eleven year old son is ever ready to dig into one after he’s done with his Agatha Christie and Rick Riordan for the day. And my seven year old daughter is only too eager to select picture books for me at a shop or her school library saying, “Got them for you, Mom; you’ll love these!” These days, it is usually she who reads aloud her favourites to us, our family snuggle and the bonding intact.

If you are new to picture books, here are a few of my favourites:

Picture Books
Meggie Moon
: Written by Elizabeth Baguley / Illustrated by: Gragoire Mabire / Publishers: Little Tiger Press, 2005.
Theme: How friends enrich our lives in ways we didn’t even know were possible.

Daft Bat : Written by: Jeanne Willis / Illustrated by: Tony Ross / Publishers: Andersen Press, 2006.
Theme: This book helps in teaching kids that there will always be several points of view other than yours and the importance of respecting them.

It’s A Book: Written and illustrated by: Lane Smith / Publishers: Macmillan’s Children’s Books, 2011.
Theme: A crispest (172 words) celebration of the simple pleasures of reading a printed book in this digital age.

Do Not Open This Book!: Written by: Michaela Muntean / Illustrated by: Pascal Lemairtre / Publishers: Scholastic Press New York, 2006.
Theme: The zaniest rib-tickler about creating a book out of nothing at all!

Do check them out!
What are your favourite picture books for children? Let me know in the comments.

*Featured image credit: matthauck (Used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.)

About The Author: Writer and author Richa Jha wears her love for picture books on her sleeves at Snuggle With Picture Books. She is an ambassador for the 2012 international Picture Book Month, which is being celebrated through the month of November. To know more about Picture Book Month, visit Picture Book Month.

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