I work in a library and patrons ask for recommendations all of the time. I try to read the new picture books as they come in. That made me think about how much I loved picture books as a child. Which led me to wonder why I didn’t seem to enjoy them as much as an adult.
The most obvious answer about why I loved them as a child is the memory of my mother reading to my sister and me. We belonged to a Dr. Seuss book club and I vividly remember whenever a new book arrived in the mail we stopped everything to sit on the couch while Mom read us the story. As she read, I devoured the illustrations. It was wonderful. When the story was over, I sat with that book practically memorizing every illustration. Then the next time the story was read to me I followed along more fully engaged.
Today, when I read a picture book I’m at work and busy. So I read it as quickly as I can and move on. It was making me a little sad that I didn’t seem to enjoy them as much and I wondered if it was one of those childhood things that we lose as adults. It eventually occurred to me that I wasn’t reading them the way they are meant to be read!
I checked out a few of the books that appealed to me and brought them home. Picking the books depended on the illustrations, the title and what the story seemed to be about. I’m a sucker for watercolor drawings but have since learned that when done right the style of the illustration should compliment the written words. And now I’m more open to many different styles of illustration. There is greatness when the pictures enhance and deepen the story. It’s art.
Recently I sat on the couch and tried to put myself in the same frame of mind I had as a child. Reading silently didn’t work because I read too fast. I discovered that the words needed to be read out loud so I could savor each word and each page of illustrations. Slowing down to enjoy a book is something most adults forget how to do but doing this adds a depth and dimension to the story you don’t get with a quick read. The great thing about a picture book is that it’s short so it doesn’t involve a big time commitment.
Then a wonderful thing happened. I lost myself in the story. Despite the fact that picture books are only 32 pages on average, the combination of the right words with the right illustration becomes magical.
As adults we all need to slow down and be in the moment. Savoring picture books can be a form of meditation. Of losing yourself in the story. Who could have guessed that picture books are a wonderful way of doing that and we can still enjoy them as adults.
I can’t wait for the new books to arrive!
Here are just 3 of my favorite summertime picture books today: