Picture Books Help Digital Children Understand Images

Many years ago my early elementary school aged daughter met author Daniel Pinkwater in a bookstore. After listening to him read and getting his autograph, she offered him a suggestion about a picture in one of his books. My husband and I were shocked at first, but then we congratulated ourselves — our daughter was so experienced and comfortable with picture books that she felt right at home giving a suggestion to a noted author.

Visit Eric Carle’s Museum of Picture Book Art

Ensuring that picture books — lots of them — play a significant role in a child’s life is a required task for digital world parents, because all  children in the connected need the skills to evaluate the images — especially the digital pictures — that saturate their lives. The Google Answers site points out that an average American is exposed to huge numbers of commercial messages each day (note the wide range of estimates at this site). Unfortunately children probably encounter these messages as well, so they need sound media literacy skills that help them interpret what they see. Picture books help.

“There’s more to these books than meets the eye,” writes Appalachian State University Professor David Considine in a document, MEDIA MATTERS: Here’s How One College Professor Puts the ‘Me’ in Media. Dr. Considine describes how he wants to demonstrate that students can “…develop critical-viewing skills by using something they already work with – picture books…”  The process of reading picture books contributes mightily to the development of sound media literacy skills, building strong foundations that help children become astute image consumers.

Several recent articles have addressed picture books and young readers.

A  couple of months ago an October 7, 2010 New York Times article, Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children, described how children’s picture books are less and less popular in book stores, probably because parents are pushing their young children to read longer books. The report irritated me, and I questioned some of its facts as did so many of the 387 comment writers who posted their thoughts at the end of the article.

The other night, just as I started writing this post, Publisher’s Weekly uploaded Don’t Write the Obit for Picture Books Yet, by Karen Springen, an article taking issue with the New York Times report about children’s books. Springen interviewed people in publishing and bookstores, as well as librarians, and most agreed that parents continue to value picture books and also questioned the “pushy parent” theory.

Click to read picture books online or on an iPad.

Still another article by Karen Springen, this one published way back in April 2010, discusses the debut of the iPad and the amazing applications available for picture book reading using iPad technology. The iPad Meets the Children’s Book describes the exciting new applications that are available for picture book reading. The article quotes Allison Druin from the University of Maryland Human Computer Interaction Lab who says, “The more that our technologies afford the feeling of what was once only able to be given to us through paper, the more we don’t notice what the technology is and we just care about the content.” Read the article for much more information about children’s books and iPads.

Picture books have a huge purpose in children’s lives. They provide hours of enjoyment, learning, and fun, but they also help children grow into discerning and astute consumers of images — a required intellectual and practical skill in today’s digital world. Children don’t just look at pictures — they contrast, compare, discover hidden details, evaluate, analyze, and figure out what a picture is saying (or not saying). And that’s just what we want them to be doing  as they grow older.

2 thoughts on “Picture Books Help Digital Children Understand Images

  1. Pingback: Kids and Reading: Widening Digital Opportunities « Media! Tech! Parenting!

  2. Reblogged this on Media! Tech! Parenting! and commented:

    In today’s digital world children, pre-adolescents, and teens are bombarded with images that they must try to understand. It turns out that old-fashioned non-digital children’s picture books may be one of the best ways to help young children begin to build the skills required to evaluate and draw conclusions about images.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s