By Sally Nurss
I visited a new independent bookstore recently and was interested to see the children’s department had not one but two rooms, both of them charming and inviting. One room was filled with attractive picture books. The other one, the owner explained, had “Books for kids who can read.”
I smiled politely, but I was thinking: Separate rooms for readers and non-readers? Isn’t that like saying, “You, there! Put down that picture book. You can read now, so go find yourself a chapter book!”? Wouldn’t elementary school age readers be hesitant to explore books in the “baby” room?
In case you haven’t heard the term before, “chapter books” are a category of books with short chapters and simple plots for beginning readers. There’s nothing wrong with them–unless they replace picture books. And I’m afraid that’s exactly what’s happening.
And if it does, there’ll be more and more children missing out on the rich language and fine artwork found in high-quality picture books. When you share picture books with beginning readers, you’re offering them more complexity in stories and vocabulary than they’d be able to decipher on their own.
Because reading chapter books needn’t mean saying good-bye to picture books, encourage your child spend time with both. Here are some new picture books that 5- to 8-year-olds (and you) might enjoy:
Ah-Ha to Zig-Zag: 31 Objects from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
By Maira Kalman
48 pp. Rizzoli. $17.95.
“If you were starting a museum, what would you put in your collection?” asks author Maira Kalman. This amusing and informative book responds to that question with pictures of 31 objects from the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum.
By Peter Brown
40 pp. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. $18.00.
Teachers are people too, as a little boy finds out when he runs into his teacher outside of school. Watch the illustrations evolve as their adventures together make the teacher ever less monstrous.
By Peter Sis
48 pp. Farrar Straus Giroux. $18.99.
A beautifully illustrated book that celebrates the life of the author of the beloved classic, The Little Prince.