I never understood the importance of pictures in a child’s journey to becoming a reader until recently. My oldest son, Bryce, is on the autism spectrum. If you are familiar at all with autism, you know that visuals are so important to those on the spectrum. Words can be confusing for him, but pictures allow him to connect. It isn’t just for those with special needs, however. We all use images to make connections and stretch our imaginations.
I am a librarian and a former English teacher, so I love words. I love the sound of words; I love how you can connect words together. But the cliche phrase “A picture can say a thousand words” is true. And it isn’t just a thousand words. It’s a thousand combinations of words. My boys have been reading books to me since they were very little. Now, were they reading by the typical reading definition? No. But they would tell me the story using the pictures. They loved it. They felt empowered by doing it. I loved it because it allowed their creativity to shine.
They were utilizing the pictures on the page, and they were developing the story with those pictures. No, it wasn’t the perfect word for word story that the author wrote, but it was an imaginative re-telling of the story that was written. For my kids, it developed conversation, creativity, and a love for reading.
Adults create stories utilizing photos, as well. Last Saturday, the Cubs advanced to the World Series for the first time since 1945. If you are a die hard Cubs fan, you no doubt have an emotional story that accompanies being a fan. I wrote my story last week (click here to read it). I used the power of words to share why I was a Cubs fan and the emotions that accompanied the victory. The picture shown was taken of my brother, Jeff, at a bar in Wrigleyville on the night the Cubs clinched the pennant. The best part of this picture is that there could be so many different stories to go with it. We could tell a 1000 stories from this picture, and yet they would likely all portray the same genuine emotion--joy.
We are thrilled to have picture books as our #readitglobal genre for November. But don’t be fooled into thinking that picture books are only for young readers. Picture books allow the reader to develop the story on his or her own--to develop his or her own language. This can be done at any age or any reading level. A picture is the foundation to unleash the unceasing potential of the imagination.