I do read children’s books, because I work with children and because I have a 12-year-old. If these things were different, I’m not sure I would seek out children’s books to read; that would be my loss. It is true that I have to read children’s books for my work, but I genuinely appreciate the layers and complexities found in so many picture books as well as the entry points for conversation that so many chapter books offer. I
recently read Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson. In the book, the young boy Milo imagines the stories of the people on the subway train with him. A well-dressed boy with a perfect part is obviously a prince on his way to his castle. A woman in a wedding dress is obviously going to meet her groom for their wedding day. An old man is going to his cat-filled apartment to eat cold soup. When Milo arrives at his destination, the little boy with the perfectly parted hair also exits the train. Milo realizes he has the little boy’s story all wrong. He thinks he may have gotten everyone’s story all wrong, so he reimagines them all. The vignettes in Milo Imagines the World are reminders that people are more complex than our first impressions of them; their stories are not necessarily the ones we create from our own experiences and biases. While an entire 400 page novel could handle this same theme, a 35-page picture book does an amazing job of it.
The layers and nuances of picture books are appreciated, but is there any other joy that compares to sharing a picture book with 400 children and getting the chance to hear their questions and thoughts about what they read, hear, and see? If you haven’t had the chance to listen to questions, thoughts, and reflections from children beyond your own, well, you’re truly missing out.
I still read to my almost 12-year-old almost every night. It is still one of my favorite parts of the day. Reading together gives us a chance to talk about our opinions of the book, which characters we like, what we think might happen, why something is well written or clunky, why we’re just not into the book or why it’s our favorite so far, what we might want to read next. Lately, we’ve been reading a couple of historical fiction novels, which opened up conversations about current events.
Through the nature of my work and my own child, I’m moved to keep up with children’s literature. While I definitely have reading gaps, I’m glad children’s literature isn’t one of those gaps.