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How Older Kids Still Benefit from Picture Books

How Older Kids Still Benefit from Picture Books
Anytime my youngest gets to choose bedtime read alouds, her choices elicit groans from her older sisters. Why? Because as a 5-year-old she always chooses picture books. They have this idea that picture books are for little kids.

Well, they are aren't they?

Let's take a look. We know why it is important to read chapter books to little kids as well as why you should still be reading to your tween, but how about picture books? 

We know picture books appeal to younger kids for sure, but do older kids get any benefit from reading them or *gasp* listening to them? 

You bet they do! Plus who doesn't like pictures!

Picture Books provide many benefits to fluent readers.

Ways Picture Books can Help Fluent Readers

  • Improve Vocabulary
  • Improved Visual Literacy
  • Better Understand Context/ Comprehension
  • Opens Discussion 
  • Improved Writing

"A children's book that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest." C.S. Lewis

Improved Vocabulary

We think of picture books as being for small children when in reality the vocabulary used in them tends to be a much greater variety than that in chapter books, TV shows, or even daily conversations. Therefore, picture books can be a great way to introduce new and uncommon vocabulary words in an accessible context, the picture book.

Improved Visual Literacy

The ability to read the pictures. This is especially important in picture books as many details can be left out of the text, so the ability to read the pictures, notice the details, and understand how they apply to  the words brings about more comprehension of the actual story. This also encourages critical thinking.

Not only are they improving literacy by reading picture books, but their sense of art is improving as well. They will notice how different colors can be used to show different emotions or how lines can be drawn to express a different feeling.

Better Comprehension and Understanding of Context

Picture books don't depend as much on the words to show the scene since they have pictures to do that. Those pictures also help kids of all ages whether a fluent reader or not to comprehend the story as well as the context.

Opens Discussion

While all kids enjoy pictures, a lot of times more can be gained from pictures than you initially realize. When reading with an older child, you can directly ask them to look at the picture and then tell you when or where they think the story is taking place or how a character may be feeling and why and even what they think will happen next. You can use illustrations as a jumping off point for more in depth discussions about history or human behavior or any number of topics.

"You have to write the book that wants to be written, and if it is too difficult for adults, you write it for children." Madeleine L'Engle

Improved Writing

The last benefit of older, fluent readers enjoying picture books is improved writing! Picture books often incorporate literary elements like rhyme, alliteration, metaphors and similes, personification and more. Reading and hearing these literary techniques on a regular basis encourages better literary usage and that spills over into writing.

Bonus Benefit to Older Kids Re-reading Picture Books

This may not be as consistent as it is going to vary based on the child and their previous relationship with books, but rereading picture books can result in a deeper emotional understanding on the topic. Now, this isn't going to apply to all books, sorry, but Brown Bear Brown Bear just doesn't stir much emotion, but The Giving Tree can. I know there are tons of others that do as well. You read them when you are little, and you get the basic story. Then when you read them (or listen to them) at a later age you will get more of the details and emotion in the story. This changes the older you get too; which is why there are books I can't read without crying. This may not be as extreme with teens, but those repeat readings are definitely deepening the understanding of the story and the emotions involved. 

Add honestly even Brown Bear Brown Bear may elicit some emotions related to the relationship formed while reading it with mom or dad as a child. And we all need more relationship with our older kids!

"A child who reads will be an adult who thinks." Unknown

Picture Books to Increase Empathy

Now not all picture books are going to be appreciated by older kids the same way as some really are just fun story books without any extra emotion or information. These still can provide good examples of story structure or literary devices though, so keep your eyes open for that. There are some though that I really think can affect kids and their emotional development through adolescence and maybe after. I wanted to share a few, so here are 10 that are probably not as familiar to you: 

Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster - Teaches kids (and adults) not to give in to negative what-ifs they tell themselves, and instead focus on the positive what-ifs.

Fair Shares - Cute story used to show that getting the same thing isn't always the fair thing. Instead the fair thing is everyone getting what they need.

Room on Our Rock - A unique book that tells a different story when read backwards. It encourages compassion and sharing and just including everyone.

Luna Loves Art - A gentle book that teaches empathy and not all families are the same.

Wilfrid Gorden McDonald Partridge - Teaches empathy for elderly people in a story that shows just how important memories are. 

Cordelia - Girls may be more likely to relate to this one more, but it teaches the importance of being yourself!

A Tale of Two Beasts - This book clearly emphasizes how a story may look different from another person's point of view. It reminds kids there is always at least 2 sides to every story.

The Perfect Shelter - A story of sisterly love in midst of a serious illness. Helps kids work through big feelings when a loved one has a poor diagnosis.

Where Happiness Lives - Little mice learn that the grass isn't really greener on the other side, and big houses and expensive things cannot replace the joy of family.

Can I Join Your Club - Teaches acceptance despite differences, and the fact that we can all belong to the same club.

Despite my older girls groaning about picture books, they still listen. They will also pick them up and read them if they are left around the house. This is especially true if it is a new book they have never seen before or one their siblings have left on the floor. But if you want to be sure they have read them, include picture books in your read-alouds even with your older kids. After all a good story is one that speaks to all ages!

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