An extraordinary newspaper headline this week, caused me to choke on my muesli, and no doubt a few coffee cups were spilled in cafes around the capital as readers took in the implications of the story. Picture Books Hurt Reading – has created a commotion in children’s bookshops, schools, libraries and families. After all, we all have our favourite picture books. As I write this, dozens of people are casting votes for Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Diary by Lynley Dodd to be named a Great Kiwi Classic.
According to the article the linguist who has done the research found ‘picture books stunted imagination’. That’ll be news to children’s book fans, whose imagination has been stretched and kindled by beautiful and intriguing illustrations in fiction and non-fiction. In fact we’d be hard put to put together a non-fiction book for early readers that didn’t have pictures. Can you conceive of a book for young children about the ocean without illustrations of dolphins, whales, octopus etc?
I can only hope that the headline and the quotes are out of context.
Picture books bring children to reading by engaging and delighting them with images that complement and elaborate on stories, and informing them and arousing their curiosity about the world.