Picture books are something of a recent discovery for me, as I really didn’t have much in the way of them back when I was growing up.
Don’t get me wrong: I had books. I had Little Golden Books, and Beginning Reader books, and those little 8×8 inch paperbacks, and a darling set of Beatrix Potter — and I clung to them like a security blanket, even clung to them while being pushed in my baby carriage. (One of my very earliest memories, actually, is of the metallic taste of the Little Golden Books’ spines, which I seemingly quite enjoyed putting in my mouth, like I was some bizarre little book-vampire-to-be and those spines were my own version of blood. And as I don’t remember actually learning to read at all — my mother claimed to not even know what my first word had been, as I was also ‘always talking’ — I am halfway convinced that I just absorbed words via osmosis, and that was simply that.)
But picture books proper? Not really, no.
I’m not entirely sure why; maybe my parents didn’t see the point in them, as I was already actively reading myself at such a young age. I don’t think I understood the point either, not until years later, and I never really felt as though I’d missed out on much.
Not until I started working in a bookstore, and somehow accidentally ended up working in the kids’ department.
And if you’re anything like me, you can’t ignore the cute and colourful, and so the picture books just started to suck me in.
And then, finally, as I stood there flipping through the ones that caught my eye (and occasionally, I admit, laughing out loud), I did start to see the point. To see that there was a point at all.
Picture books aren’t about teaching kids to read, not entirely. Not even about teaching kids to love reading.
Picture books are important because they teach children to love books.
Not just reading. Not just stories. But books, themselves, as physical objects, as an experience.
Think about your copy of your very favourite book. Your copy, the one you’ve maybe had for years, where you know every single dog-ear and sun-spot and bit of yellow on the pages’ edge, or every added-in note or line — where the memory of the first time you read it, or the person who gave it to you, is nearly as strong as the memory of the text itself —
The book where, while you adore the story that’s inside, the object itself means nearly as much.
Picture books teach children that books can be that. An experience. A memory, beyond the memory of story. A gate.
And that, right there, is why I think picture books are important.
Every single story, no matter how strong, can be made stronger with memories tied to it — and books are the vessels that hold those memories. That elevate stories beyond themselves, that make the stories belong to you, that make the stories yours.
And so I think children need books as much as they need to read, and picture books have become something that I truly do believe in.
And I think they’re something that I want to talk about more.
I’ve decided to try out reviewing them here. :)
There may not be much rhyme or reason to my selections (new books, old books, text-heavy, wordless — it’ll be anything that catches my fancy, and in all fairness my scope of fancy is large), and the reviews themselves may not be very long, and I’m not sure what the schedule for them will look like just yet.
But they’ll tell you why I care about each particular book, and why I think that you should, too.
It’s all about spreading the love. :)