It’s bedtime- baths have been done, teeth have been brushed, pajamas are on. Twilight is creeping in. I sit on one of my son’s beds and four little bodies gather around. My boys know what is next. It’s time to read picture books before bed! Whether through the silly puns of Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal or the inspiring story of courage in Jarbari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall, my kids are ready to snuggle up with a great book. This nightly routine helps us connect, think, and calm down before bed. It’s my very favorite time of day.
November is picture book month! An entire month is dedicated to celebrating the enduring relevance and significance of the picture book. Both as a middle school teacher and mom of four, I have come to grow madly in love with the reading and sharing of picture books over the years. Picture books are for everyone. Let me repeat that so it sinks in- picture.books.are.for.everyone. I hope to give you tools to celebrate these special pieces of literature this month and every month!
Picture Books for Babies
Both inside and outside the womb, reading books with our tiniest learners lays the foundation and love of reading. Before babies are born, select your favorite picture books from when you were growing up. This will ignite nostalgia in you and will help your baby hear your soothing voice. There are benefits to reading while the baby is in the womb. For instance, studies have shown it lowers the baby’s heart rate. Also, it helps to calm the mother.
Once a baby is born- keep reading! Newborns love to see contrasting pictures so stock up on black and white picture books as your baby’s eyesight is developing. Find books with sounds, things to touch and feel as well as books that babies can touch, bite, and scratch without doing damage. Reading to your newborn will help them with early language development and increased word recognition. Here are a few favorites to buy for the littlest readers:
- Black and White by Tana Hoban : This book not only has contrast black and white photos, but it also can expand to sit up on its own so that your baby can look at it during tummy time.
- Industructibals: Things that Go! by Amy Pixon : Chew proof, rip proof, and non-toxic, this book can be well loved and stay good as new!
- Peak-A Who by Nina Laden : With simple phrases and great illustrations, this book will be requested over and over again. Plus, there’s a surprise ending that any baby will love!
Ideas for Toddlers/Preschoolers
Kids this age need picture books every single day. They provide numerous positives both in foundational reading, speaking, and writing skills as well as emotional well-being. During the toddler and preschool years, small children are learning at an incredible rate. Picture books provide short stories to capture your child’s interest as well as teach them important comprehension and phonological skills. While reading picture books, young children are picking up vocabulary, phonics, and fluency. Choose books with rhyming, repetition, surprise endings, and engaging illustrations. Let your child fill in a rhyme or two, ask them beginning questions about characters, plot, and setting. And, for those few books that become favorites, have your child read the books to you! Focusing on a book increases concentration skills as well.
In addition, it is crucial to develop predictable routines, consistency, and a whole lot of bonding and love. Reading picture books as part of bedtime, for example, hits every single one of those important pieces. Having a routine for reading is something both you and your child can look forward to and it allows you to give the most precious gift to your child- your time and attention. Below are some great examples of picture books that will be loved by your toddler/preschooler:
- In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek : Labeling feelings is explained in this beautiful book. It’s great for opening up the discussion of what it feels like to be angry, scared, excited, etc.
- Anything by Eric Carle : Brown Bear, Brown Bear and The Very Hungry Caterpillar are favorites in our home. His books, while usually short and sweet, do a wonderful job of showcasing repetition to help your small readers feel successful at predicting what will come next.
- Books about colors, animals, families, and the alphabet : Your preschool will love learning about their favorite things through picture books. One great example is A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O’Leary.
Picture Books for Elementary Age
Elementary school is a fantastic time to be in a routine of reading picture books together. There are picture books to teach any scientific concept, historical event, literary skill. Picture books can help explain character traits. Any single interest your child has, any topic they care about, anything they want to learn- there is a picture book for that!
Keep picture books in your home library to remind your child how loved they are at the end of a hard day. Use the local library to check out every picture book when your child wants to learn why thunderstorms happen or how dump trucks work. Each night, snuggle up with a picture book or two before reading a chapter book together. Use picture books to practice reading aloud, use them to ask questions to check in with reading comprehension. The possibilities are truly endless. Here are a few that will be read again and again in your home:
- The Crown on Your Head by Nancy Tillman : This book’s words beautifully capture how important every single human is on this earth, how much we all matter.
- What Do You Do With an Idea by Yobi Yamada and Mae Besom : What happens when your child has a great idea? Use this book to help it grow!
- Find books to teach resiliency strategies and growth mindset. I Can do Hard Things by Gabi Garcia and Charity Russell is a great example. Filled with wonderful mantras, this book will help keep attitudes positive and your child feeling strong to tackle what comes.
Topics for Middle School and Beyond
Picture books are for everyone. Children of any age can engage in a short story with amazing illustrations. The beauty of so many picture books, though, is how much depth can be present. The same book used to entertain a young child may open the door to a tough conversion. There are picture books about any global issue, difficult subject, character trait. In addition, a picture book is an access point to learn something new or explore topics such as friendships, peer pressure, internet safety, changing bodies, and self love just to name a few. These are situations and topics our older children are experiencing.
Next, take a break from a longer chapter book you may be reading together and read a picture book instead. Then, talk: about what the lesson is, what the deeper meaning is, what the book may be trying to teach us. Sometimes, as parents or teachers, it may be hard to know how to broach a tough subject. Let picture books be your ally. Think about using picture books like these with your older children:
- We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom : A beautifully illustrated book about the importance of protecting nature and the power of a community working together.
- Various biographies : Picture books are a fantastic way to tell the stories of inventors, activists, historical figures, and trail blazers. Use your older children’s interests, likes, and talents to learn stories that will engage them. Here’s a great example: Nacho’s Nachos: The Story Behind the World’s Favorite Snack by Sandra Nickel and Oliver Dominguez
- The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth : This story examines questions to help stay engaged in the moment and be strong in self-reflection. A great book to open the door to difficult conversations and to problem-solve.
Celebrate Picture Books This November
Let picture books be the star of your at-home reading this month and beyond! Picture books can help us connect deeply with our children, no matter their age. They can open the door to examine difficult topics, tell the stories of historical figures and events, and learn more about any topic. Happy picture book month! Snuggle up with your kids and get reading!
Want more awesome picture books for your home?! Check these out!