Growing Up is Optional, Provided You Read Chapter Books
I love books. I have this relationship with books that almost reaches to the point of an addiction. Personally, I prefer the label “well-read” but books generally are overly welcome in my places of residence. Reading provides a fantastic window on the world. Authors even carefully construct alternate worlds to explore broader themes of being human. And occasionally, you find an author who just writes for fun. It is hard to create unilateral criteria for bad books.
Unless the book happens to be a picture book. Recently, the New York Times ran an article about parents avoiding picture books for their children. I love my picture books. One of my favorites is “Purple Green and Yellow” by Robert Munch. I can still rattle off “super-indelible-never-come-off-until-you’re-dead-or-maybe-even-later coloring markers” with the best of them. Short stories formed a critical part of my reading repertoire, particularly when learning to read aloud for others. Picture books bring a level of creativity to reading. They open up the creative mind to other forms of communication. Have you ever thought about the critically literate imagination of a renown illustrator?
Recently, I re-encountered Dr. Seuss after a long hiatus. I was amazed at his depth regarding complex themes. The Butter Battle Book is all about the Cold War. The Lorax is all about environmental mindfulness. Literally Dr Seuss is also a ton of fun. I think learning the rules of iambic pentameter would have made a lot of sense under his playful tongue instead of getting lost in the oddities of Shakespearean English.
Chapter books are excellent. Matilda remains among my absolute favorites to this day. However, to assert that a child’s intellectual development accelerates by picking up chapter books earlier and earlier and earlier is absolutely absurd.
So for the love of all things childhood, let’s keep the picture books around. Let’s learn to appreciate this unique literary form.