Have you ever borrowed a picture book from the library only to discover that the book is far too wordy or, alternatively, has too few words to sustain the attention of your Little Reader? Well, this is exactly what happened to us recently. You see, I order books from the library online and my hubby is kind enough to pick them up for us on the way home from work. Super convenient but not always conducive to picture book selections that are certain to delight my preschooler. Initially, I used to just send books that didn't feel as though they were the appropriate "level" for my little one straight back to the library but recently I've discovered a trick that keeps my preschooler coming back to these books again and again.
Let me share with you some ideas on how to read wordy, word-starved and wordless picture books with your little one so that they are sure to become hits during your bedtime reading routine!
1. You Read to Me
There are 10 minutes before lights out and you open up the wordiest picture book alive. It will take you at least 15 minutes to read it fully and that doesn't count the explaining you will have to do about the meaning of many of the words on the page. What to do? Easey peasey: ask your child to read to you! This may sound like lunacy but I assure you they will read the story in less than half the time it would have taken you to read each word fully. Moreover, they will produce a most imaginative and beautiful version of the tale! I love nothing more than listening to my child's idea of what the artist is trying to convey in pictures. The combination of beautiful art and my Little Reader's imagination are a joy to listen to - especially right before a good night's sleep.
Here is a great picture book we recently took out of the library that is very wordy but that beautifully depicts train travel across the United States during the early days of railways.
2. Quality Conversations
So you've found a beautiful book at the library but the problem is the words don't flow or there are so few words that the story is over in 30 seconds flat. Um. Now what? Well, you know what they say about lemons. This is actually a wonderful opportunity for a discussion with your little one about the book. Ask some questions about the images on the page that spark the imagination.
Recently we took out this beautiful photography book from the library and flipping through it I realized it was just not going to be stimulating enough for my girl. Suddenly we grasped onto an image of a rain-drenched blue jay and had a most compelling chat about him. "How do blue jays take showers? Where does he go to get dry? If he could speak, what would he say to us right now?" So much fun and such great quality time conversing together.
3. Get Lost
And then don't you find that there are times when you both just need to get lost in a book utterly and completely at the end of the day? Silent contemplation of a wonderfully illustrated and entirely wordless book is an opportunity for bonding and quiet reflection with your preschooler. Like an Escher painting (you know those ones with all the intersecting staircases and maze like tunnels), several wordless books are illustrated to help children to just check out a bit. It's entirely OK to become wrapped up in a book that needs no words to tell a magical and enticing narrative.
Here is the trailer for one of our very favourite wordless picture books!
So there we have it. I recommend not getting too wrapped up in finding the "right level" of book to read with your preschooler. Improvise and delight in art and imagery. After all, artists have stories to tell too! Despite the fact that we might not formally read each and every book we take out from the library word for word, books no longer go back to the library unappreciated from our home.
In fact, we are always on the look out for new picture books! I would love to hear about some of your favourite wordy, word-starved and wordless picture books! Feel free to share any recommendations below.