Have you ever wondered why some picture books make children giggle uncontrollably or they are so engrossed that they begin to talk directly to the book itself as a one-on-one conversation? Or maybe why she holds on to her security blankie for dear life but still wants you to keep reading even though she is peeking through their fingers? Well have you…huh?
Fortunately, I have been lucky enough to experience all of the above both as a youth librarian who does storytime and as a mother of two rambunctious readers, ages 7 and 8. Somehow after the first few pages you just know when a picture book is the most perfect-est, out of this world, fantabulous, read it to me again and again and again mommy, puh-leese!!!, type of picture book.
Although you may think these great picture books are few and far between they are not as rare as you would think. They can actually happen quite often when you, the reader, commit to reading a good picture book the bestest way (yes, bestest is a technical term) you can. Here, allow me to explain…
Look at the illustrations - what is the book about and what sort of emotions do the characters evoke? Are they excited, scared, curious or grumpy? Is there a loud race car vroom vrooming or a roller coaster whooshing by? Is there a bird chirping loudly or a child whimpering softly? And can you try to read the words and pictures in a way so that your child will feel the book? In most good picture books the emotions will tell the story, and if you read the story with the umph of those emotions each turn of a page will surely be a cliff hanger for your young listener. And chances are if the book is a cliff hanger for your young listener, if they can put themselves in the book because of how you read it to them, then they will probably want you to read it again and again. And if you read the book to them again and again and again chances are you are fostering a love of books and reading in your young listener that will last a lifetime all because you read with a little umph.
A pro at this type of umph reading is the most wonderfulest Australian Author Mem Fox. Check her out reading the beloved Koala Lou and tell me you didn’t have to dry a tear when Koala Lou comes in second!