In the world we’re living in today children are more exposed to a variety of electronics such as video games, cell phones, computers, iPads, and etc. However, it is still important that adults are investing time in children to read books to them especially when they’re at a young age. It has been proven that reading to young children helps them improve in school, later on advancement at work, and in everyday life itself. This is called a process of cognitive development. “Cognitive development means how children think, explore and figure things out” (Help Me Grow). This includes helping children with their problem-solving skills, creative thinking, and expanding their imaginations. Children obtain majority of their ideas from books they’ve read and seen, which is why picture books are the building block for children learning to read by comprehending the picture to analyze the story. Though it may seem like children aren’t interested in reading books because of technological advancement, spending time reading picture books to children is very essential to their growth. Picture books have been used to convey certain topics to children with the use of anthropomorphism, which is the attribution of human characteristics to inanimate animals (Nauert). This paper explores how picture books in particular conveys a message to children and is essential to their mind development.
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In the mid 1700’s is when literature began to be written specifically for children. Around that time, books were used to teach children how to sound out their alphabets, to improve their morals and spiritual values. The culture and ethical values in those books were based on what the authors felt was right (Root). During the 19th century is when adventurous books became popular. There were authors such as Kenneth Grahame who continued to make children novels about anthropomorphic animals. Then came the twentieth century, which is when the development of picture books occurred. Picture books began to demonstrate an idea that allowed for the pictures and words to complement one another to form an entire story. There were many outstanding illustrators during the early 20th century. Then later on came the growth of computers and electronics, which allowed for some of the illustrations to be made on a computer and printed into the book. The drastic change in children literature is what allows modern children to be so productive in their reading, writing, and creativity.
The advantage of technology is what allows children from all over the world be able to partake in the effectiveness of picture books. When children are in the classroom or even at home, they are able to acces books right from their tablet, computer, or any mobile device. Picture books inspires visual thinking, language building, and excitement for children. Books make more sense to children when there is an image attached to it. When you read picture books to children they become more engaged. I have an experience of my own from reading to younger children. I decided to read the picture book Charlotte’s Web to my seven-year-old cousin, and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to niece that is six. They were happy about the story itself, but once they’d seen the various pictures throughout the book, there was a different level of excitement. They started pointed at the pictures, and asking questions related to the story. The pictures are what grabbed their attention the most which allowed them to expand their creativity and ask questions. Children reaction to story reading is priceless so it’s important to sit down with children and read to them aloud so they can get the most out of the book.
Children often ask the question “why”. Majority of the time they are trying to make sense of the world around them. Once a child hit a certain age, they want to know more the world they live in, and how they fit in. When something sparks a child’s mind, there is usually a series of questions being asked. There a few books that are known for expanding children imagination and allowing them to ask questions. The book What Do You Do with an Idea by Kobi Yamadais a picture book that allows children to reach for the stars when dreaming. It lets children know that there is no idea or dream that’s too big or too difficult. The boy in the story once had an idea, and he wondered where it came from. He wasn’t confident about the idea, so he doesn’t tell anyone because they might think it is foolish. But, there was something in him that wouldn’t allow him to give up on that idea. After a while he starts to feel hope and confident enough to tell others about the idea. Some people laughed at his idea, but he didn’t let those people bother him. He begins to put work and dedication into his idea and then something magical happened.
Picture books are also a great way to teach children about different topics. In Taiwan preschool teachers constructed a study to teach children from the age of 5-6 years old about environmental protections. Those teachers used children’s picture books that were related to environmental education to teach children about the impact of human activities on the environment for a period of eight weeks. The picture books had a great impact on the children. The children began to recycle more, use less water, electricity and paper (Shih). This example shows the effectiveness of picture books. “Adults should share picture books with young children to build their lifelong literacy and enjoyment of reading” (Jalongo). Once a child is familiar with a story of a picture book, he/she will be able to translate it without the help of an adult (Arora). This is also an example of visual perception. “Visual perception is an ability to process and organize visual information” (Yu). For example, when I was reading the picture book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to my niece she could assume what the words were saying before I read them just by looking at the pictures. The pictures were going hand in hand with the words which allowed her to interpret the meaning of the story.
There are a host of interactive picture books that help children develop skills. Follow That Map is a book that teaches children mapping skills. Maps can help children understand the world they’re in and different places nearby and faraway. Follow That Map by Scot Ritchie is about children who are going on a journey to find a missing dog and cat. They use the map to find their way around the world. The book includes questions and activities to teach young children how to use a map. The five children use landmarks, a compose rose, scale bar, and legends on the map to find their way around the city and outer space. In addition to children learning from the classroom, they can further understand different topics by learning from picture books.
Children can learn about their culture and values from reading picture books. The world is filled with diverse people, so it is important that children know who they are and their background. Also, the world is infused with misconceptions and stereotypes, to avoid children being taught the wrong information it is best that they read about it for themselves. Although, there are some books that reiterate stereotypes, there are some that are truthful about one’s culture. All are Welcome is a picture book about a diverse group of children at school. Some children are wearing hijabs, patkas, and kippahs, but they are coming together in a classroom setting learning from one another. There are students with different skin tones, there is a blind boy, and a girl in a wheelchair, but they’re not treated no differently from the others. This book shows children that their differences is what make them special and they are welcomed no matter what. Lovely is another picture book that describes a group of diverse children as “lovely”. “Picture books that depict the variety of ethical, racial, and cultural groups within U.S society socially (known generally as multicultural picture books) allow young children opportunities to develop their understanding of others while affirming children of diverse backgrounds” (Mendoza)
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There are numerous of picture books that teach children about their history, and to encourage them to be themselves. Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/ Marisol McDonald no Combina by Monica Brown is about a Peruvian-Scottish-American girl who values every part of her identity. She speaks Spanish and English and she likes to eat peanut and jelly burritos for her school lunch. At recess she like to play pirate princess soccer. Other children think Marisol is weird and doesn’t fit in. Marisol’s friends try to get her to play the games that they play and dress like they do. Marisol begins to play some of the games that her friends play and wear clothes that match, but Marisol doesn’t feel like herself. Marisol’s teacher doesn’t like how Marisol has changed, so she writes her a note. Marisol realizes that she isn’t being her true self, so she goes back to her authentic self. This picture book is for multiracial children to encourage them to be themselves even if that means being different from those around them. This picture books allow children to think about some of the things they like, such as the type of clothes or colors they like to wear, the kind of food they like to eat, they kind of games they like to play, whether or not they like pets, and etc. This picture book is not only good for multiracial children but for all children to take in consideration the things they like without feeling out of place because of what others may think of them.
Throughout this paper I gave a list of picture books that’ll help children with cognitive development by assisting them with decision making, enhancing their imagination, building language skills, and to inspire them to become visual thinkers. I’ve discussed the history of picture books, when they were first created, and how the advancement of technology has made it easier to gain access to a variety of picture books. Children will gain excellent analytical skills from instilling the habit of reading to young children and paying attention to visual information. Reading picture books daily to young children is proven to help them with long-term success, improved imagination and creativity, and it creates a lifelong enjoyment of reading. I hope adults take into consideration the importance of reading to children, so they are better equipped and able to understand the world they’re in.
- Arora, Mahak, “Board of Books to Enhance Cognitive Skills in a 18 Months Old”. Parenting First cry, 27 Sept. 2018. https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/board-books-to-enhance-cognitive-skills-in-a-18-months-old/
- Dunkin, Dolores, “Children Who Read Early, Two Longitudinal Studies”. ERIC, 1966. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED019107
- Jalongo, Mary, “Young Children and Picture Books. 2nd Edition”. ERIC, 2004 https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED489849
- Librarianship, “Seeing is Believing – The Benefits of Picture Books for Building Reading Skills” EBSCOpost, 08 Nov. 2017, https://www.ebsco.com/blog/article/seeing-is-believing-the-benefits-of-picture-books-for-building-reading-skil
- Mendoza – Jean | Reese – Debbie “Examining Multicultural Picture Books for the Early Childhood Classroom: Possibilities and Pitfalls.” Early Childhood Research & Practice,
- 30, November 2000. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED458040.
- Root, Shelton, “History, Literature in the Lives of Children, Environment, Awards”. Children’s Literature. https://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/1829/Children-s-Literature.html
- Shih, Pei-Yu | Hsiao, Ching-Yuan, “Exploring the effectiveness of picture books for teaching young children the concepts of environmental protection”. International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, 05 Nov. 2015 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10382046.2015.1106203
- “The Importance of Reading to Your Children”. Children’s Bureau.
- “What is Cognitive Development”. Help me Grow. http://helpmegrowmn.org/HMG/HelpfulRes/Articles/WhatCognitiveDev/index.html
- Yu, Xinyu, “Exploring Visual Perception and Children’s Interpretations of Picture Books.” Science Direct: School of Library and Information Science, 10, Aug. 2012. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S074081881200059X
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