I Refuse to Rush Him
My 9-year-old son is an avid reader, and considers himself so. He often has his nose in a book, and will talk with you about books, authors and illustrators as readily as he’ll talk to you about Michigan football and ocean life (two of his favorite things).
He has grown up surrounded by literature. His mom happens to be a teacher librarian, which means there is a constant flow of books in and out of our house. Our bookshelves are overflowing to the point where piles of books can be found in just about every room of our house.
He has been blessed by incredible teachers and a school librarian who have encouraged his love of reading throughout his schooling career.
He has read and loved many incredible middle grade books, including Peter Brown’s The Wild Robot, Kate Messner’s Ranger in Time: Escape from the Great Earthquake, Jess Keating’s How to Outswim a Shark without a Snorkel, Gary Paulsen’s Brian’s Winter, and Liesel Shurtliff’s Red to name just a few.
He is a confident, capable, 4th grade reader.
So what does any of this have to do with a blog series about picture books?
He is a picture book lover. He devours picture books more readily than his Halloween candy. He will often ask me if I have any new picture books he can read. He treasures signed copies of picture books from his favorite authors and illustrators. When a new shipment of books comes to the house, without fail, he dives into the stack of picture books first. He may check out middle grade novels after he’s torn through the picture book pile, but always, always, always, it’s picture books first for him.
And I refuse to rush him out of picture books.
I am more than happy to share, read and talk about picture books with him. I willingly give in to his requests to bring stacks of picture books home. When he chooses a pile of picture books to read before bed, I smile and ask if I can join him for a few.
I refuse to rush him out of picture books because of all he could miss.
He could have missed Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating and Marta Alvarez Miguens, and missed out on the power of learning about an inspirational pioneer in the field of marine biology.
He could have missed Claymates by Dev Petty and Lauren Eldridge, and missed out on seeing the power of creation and storytelling.
He could have missed Life by Cynthia Rylant and Brenden Wenzel, and missed out on the power and beauty found in the natural world.
He could have missed The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken, and missed out on the power of seeing the value and gift that mistakes can be.
He could have missed After the Fall by Dan Santat, and missed out on the power of overcoming your fears and the power of persistence that lies in all of us.
He could have missed It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh Funk and Edwardian Taylor, and missed out on understanding the power the narrator has (or doesn’t have…) in telling a story.
He could have missed I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Anthony, and missed out on experiencing the power of being patient and the reward that comes with waiting.
He could have missed out on these titles that he told me himself are some of his favorite recent picture books and the power that each one holds.
I refuse to rush him out of picture books.
My hope for him, and for my 7-year-old daughter, and for readers of all ages, everywhere, is that they will stay with picture books, now and forever. That they will grow and change and develop as people, and as readers, and will continue to add all types of books to their reading lives; but that picture books will always have a place there, too. Their lives will be so much richer by the stories each of these 32-page treasures have to offer.
Stories of hope, of joy, of laughter. Stories of the past, the present, the future. Stories that challenge, that transform, that inspire. Stories that are mirrors and windows. Stories that make them think. Stories that make them reflect. Stories that make them question the world around them and their place in it. Stories that make them fall in love with reading.
Ultimately, isn’t this what we want for our readers? Our students? Our own children?
Let them stay. Let them savor. Let them enjoy. Let them be impacted by the power of picture books.
Refuse to rush them out of picture books.
Carrie Davies is a K-4 Teacher Librarian in West Michigan. She feels incredibly lucky to spend her days surrounded by her two favorite things -- kids and books. She’s married to an avid bike rider, is mom to a 9-year-old soccer player and 7-year-old Girl Scout, and they all live amidst piles of books. You can find her on Twitter at @readwithdavies.