Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Power of the Picture Book: Alyson Beecher

Alyson Beecher


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Pssst. Come a little closer. I have a something to tell you. Picture Books are my favorite books to read. I know I am an adult and that I should be reading that stack of journals on my desk or checking out the latest novel for children or adults. But I really, really love picture books.

There are people I know who are obsessed with buying clothes or shoes or music or office supplies. C’mon. I know some of you have a sticky note addiction. Well my obsession is collecting picture books. You know how some people collect art. Well, picture books would be my favorite kind of art to collect.

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I have a collection of wordless picture books, and an ever growing collection of nonfiction picture books.

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And the last time I checked my picture book poetry collection was outgrowing the space I had designated for it.

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Oh and did I tell you that some picture books find a way home with me just because the illustrations are so beautiful.

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Picture books are also versatile. Picture books help reduce stress and anxiety. There are those weeks that just have me completely wound up and wanting to pull out my hair. I know you know what I am talking about. Your car wouldn’t start and you needed a new battery. The dog tracked mud all over the new carpet. Your students were climbing the walls. At the end of those kind of days or weeks, I love to pull out a stack of picture books to read. Sometimes, I stop by Vroman’s Bookstore and see what is on display in their new picture book section. I will pull together 10 or 12 books and find a quiet corner to read. Of course, a few of those find their way home with me.

On other days, I might be lucky to have a notice from my public library that the reserves I put on a list of picture books are ready for pick up. And sometimes my other favorite indie bookstore Once Upon a Time will call to say the books I pre-ordered are in and come and pick them up.

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It is amazing how therapeutic reading picture books can be. Sometimes I find myself laughing out loud while I read them and other times I may have to pull out a tissue to wipe away the tears that started when I was moved by a story.  At other times, I discover new facts or information or find myself wanting to learn more about a particular topic.  Regardless of the various emotions, by the end of the stack, my blood pressure is lower and my faith in life has been restored.

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Picture books are not only restorative, but they can transform. Whether you teach kindergarten or fifth grade or high school, picture books can be used to build classroom community, provide readers with something to reflect on, or can further a discussion about difficult topics.

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Picture books are powerful for all of the reasons I have touched upon, but the greatest power of the picture book is it opens up doors for children who may not have the means to travel and explore to move beyond their neighborhoods. To enter into a story and learn about other people and places.  To dream and travel and see themselves within the pages of a story and beyond.

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Alyson Beecher is an educator with more than 20 years of experience in elementary and special education, six of which were as an elementary principal. Currently, she is a K-8 Literacy Specialist for the Pasadena Unified School District, CA. She can be found on twitter and instagram @alybee930 or through her blog www.kidlitfrenzy.com