The world is a very big place for a young child and there is a huge amount to learn and understand. Picture books are a brilliant way to introduce children to a world beyond their immediate environment in a fun and unintimidating way.
Growing up isn’t just about learning numbers and the alphabet, there are some pretty major life lessons to learn too. Things such as learning to share, taking turns and being a good friend don’t come that easily and need a lot of reinforcement. Picture books can do this, and they can do it in a way that isn’t patronising or condescending. I think this approach makes them a stronger tool for teaching these life lessons, after all, no one likes being told how to behave, especially not a tantruming child.
Picture books can cover a huge variety of themes, and because they don’t have to reflect reality in an exact way, they can teach life lessons without seeming to do so. Picture books can use silly characters, beautiful illustrations and nonsensical stories and wrap these lessons up so a child can absorb them without being preached to. The more the child enjoys a book, the more they will read it and the more they take from it.
I am a mum of 3 young children and trying to explain to them that they should think about how someone else feels or why they should share, isn’t easy. Therefore, in my own books, I have broached the themes of friendship and teamwork, and I try to show ways in which being a good friend and helping each other can be very rewarding. In my latest book, Happy Hooves, Yuk!, I have approached the idea that it is ok to like different things, and that we can find a common ground somewhere – I think these are important lessons to learn, even as an adult!
Picture books are also fantastic at helping children to feel included, especially if they don’t feel or look the same as others, they show a wider representation of the world to a child that only has limited access to it. Rebecca Elliott, the illustrator of Happy Hooves, has written a number of wonderful books about diversity in physical abilities, with beautiful illustrations and with humour.
Picture books offer subtle and fun ways to teach children about diversity, differences, inclusion and awareness, that serve to open up children’s eyes to a wider world and hopefully to help them value kindness and acceptance. Mmmmm, maybe we should make everyone read picture books more.
Happy Hooves, Yuk!
is published by Fat Fox Books, £10.99 hardback
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