Lifelong Learning

Gifting picture books to children is a good idea


Great books with no or few words and beautiful illustrations are fantastic for building vocabulary, love of books, writing and drawing skills. This is not too much praise, especially if they are Caldecott Award winners for illustrations.

The 2017 Caldecott Medal winner is "Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat" by Javaka Steptoe. In this inspirational book, a little boy sees art everywhere in New York City. It introduces Basquiat's message that art "doesn't always have to be perfect, neat, clean, or inside the lines" to be beautiful. The message to children is love your art.

Cozy reading

To enjoy "Radiant" and many others, families can gather a few stuffed animals to read along in a cozy spot. Once everyone is comfortable, you can start by enthusiastically pointing to an illustration. "Look at that! What do you see?" Soak up the beauty and messages of a few illustrations. Then read the sparse words or make up your own story while focusing on the illustrations. Children will learn to add to the story in their own words.

Ask questions that begin with "What, who, where, when, why do you think, or how?" How do the characters feel-happy, sad, angry, upset, lonely, or warm and cuddly inside? What is the character thinking about? After you have exhausted those questions ask, "What do you think will happen next?" Predicting is an important reading skill. In these books, the illustrations have so much to say.

Whatever you do, take it slow. We often hurry children. Instead, give them time to think and relax. Reading will calm children down, prepare them for sleep, soothe a hurt and give great joy.

Readers and thinkers

Children who are read to often become good readers and thinkers. Reading is an extremely important part of their routine before naps and bedtime. No TV show, video, electronic book or computer game can ever replace a family reading and talking together.

Here are a few award winning picturebook authors and titles to start:

"Tuesday," "The Three Pigs," "Flotsam," " Free Fall," and "Sector 7" by David Wiesner; "The Red Book," "Museum Trip," "Rainstorm," "Trainstop" and "Red Again" by Barbara Lehmann;" Good Night, Gorilla," "10 Minutes till Bedtime" and "Officer and Gloria" by Peggy Rathmann; "The Snowman" by Raymond Brigg; "Ben's Dream" by Chris Van Allsberg; "Clown" by Quentin Blake; "Pancakes for Breakfast" by Tomie dePaola; "Rain" by Peter Spier; "Time Flies" by EricRohmann; "Deep in theForest" by Brinton Turkle; "The Silver Pony" by Lynd Ward; "Have you Seen My Duckling?" by Nancy Tafuri; "Yellow Umbrella" by Jae-Soo Liu; "Changes, Changes" by Pat Hutchins; and "Hug" by Jez Alborough.

Esther Macalady is a former teacher who lives in Golden and participates in the Grandparents Teach Too writing group. For more learning tips, see the podcasts and the website

Esther Macalady


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