by Gail Goldspiel
Ever since I was young, I have been mesmerized by picture books. The vibrant, colorful pages, the memorable story, the unique characters, the concise yet catchy text. All of it was and still is engrossing. As an educator, I have taken great delight in expanding my picture book collection and have even tried my hand at writing and illustrating one or two of my own.
Often impeccably artful masterpieces, picture books somehow magically delight the reader simultaneously, in both stories and in images. Often, young children and their parents are mesmerized together, and generation after generation. The power of reading picture books becomes a meaningful activity we see at home, in daycare, and at school. So, what is it about picture books? As we come to the culmination of yet another school year, what are some great titles to add to your bookshelf?
This list only includes a small fraction of the many unforgettable books out there:
- Artsy: If you’re looking for enchanting and inspiring books to read that embrace the expression of creativity and art-making, collect anything by Peter Reynolds. My favorites include: Ish, The Dot, and The Museum, because they celebrate everyone being an artist, each in an individual and unique way. https://www.peterhreynolds.com/
- Magical: I grew up with a lot of William Steig in the house (Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Doctor DeSoto) as well as Tomie DiPaola (Strega Nona, Pancakes for Breakfast). These books are particularly memorable because of how powerfully imaginative they are and the unique magical stories they tell. Children will be delighted by the one-of-a-kind characters and truly fascinating tales. https://www.tomie.com/
- Classic: There are some books that should be a staple on any bookshelf. They’ve stood the test of time and remained classics throughout many generations. Some of my favorites include: The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, Blueberries for Sal and Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and anything by Eric Carle. For more classic recommendations like these: http://www.clcawards.org/Best-Children-s-Literature-of-All-Time.html
- Outer Space and Earth: For stories to inspire readers to dream big and explore outer space as well as our home planet, Here We Are, by Oliver Jeffers is definitely worth a read, or two or three! This is the type of book that will get looked at again and again both for the illustrations and for the tour of our planet and universe. You might also want to check out Mousetronaut by Mark Kelly, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein as well as The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry.
- Endless Possibility: A relatively new book (2019) that I just stumbled upon in a bookstore is Maybe by bestselling author Kobi Yamada and debut illustrator Gabriella Barouch. Winner of the Natilus Book Award, this book and every word and image it includes will take your breath away. About the great power of purpose and possibility within all of us, children and adults alike will walk away from this book, inspired and deeply moved. Definitely one to have at home or even give as a gift. https://gabriellabarouch.com/maybe-picture-book/
Perhaps, at the end of the day, when we think about what makes picture books so powerful, aside from being interactive, engaging and meant to read-aloud, it is the innate magic they possess in truly sparking the imagination. If anything, this alone is one of the most important things we can do for young children in fostering and developing their creativity, curiosity and active life-long learning.
As esteemed educator William Walsh once wrote in The Use of Imagination (1959): “Our imagination is a great joy and fulfillment to us…when all comes to all, the most precious element in life is wonder. The sense of wonder. That is our sixth sense. [That] is our way of knowing.”
For nannies interested in learning more, a Children and Literacy course is included in the Intermediate Childcare certification program at the US Nanny Institute.