our secret weapon: illustrations.
Pictures, art, and any sort of visual are a great way to get your kids interested in—and even excited about—reading. The art is just as important as the story, so don't forget to take the time to linger over the pages and focus on the illustrations.
From Pencil to Print. Check out this video to get an idea of how Mike Litwin, illustrator of New York Times bestselling My Name Is Not Isabella, went through his creative process to bring Isabella—the sassy little girl with the soaring imagination—to life.
How can you captivate your child with picture books?
• Choose beautiful art. It's very common that children will end up picking out books to read based on what the cover looks like. As a parent, you want to be sure to bring home books with attention-grabbing art on the cover and within the book's pages. Better yet, try bringing your child with you to the library or the bookstore and let them select a book to read with you.
• Vary your picture book collection. Don't be afraid to select daring art. Picture books with eccentric artwork or illustrations are a great way to introduce new topics and spark new discussions with your child, allowing them to be more imaginative and ask questions. Conversely, feel free to choose books that may be comforting to your child as well. Realistic plotlines with simple illustrations might move your child at different times in different ways. A more familiar story with simple artwork could be a fitting option before bedtime.
• Tour the illustrations before you read the story. This is a great way to observe how your child responds to and processes what they see on the page. As you thumb through the illustrations together, maybe your child will come up with a story of their own. And especially if your child can't read yet, it can be a fun challenge to go through and see if they can use the illustrations to tell you a story. Or, if you've read the story together before, this can also be a great exercise to see what your child can remember. (They can test your memory too!)
• Engage your child with the art. Explore. Soak it all in. Pause during the story to take time to explain the illustrations, or ask your child what they think about a certain image or artwork. Ask them what they see and how it makes them feel. Think of ways to incorporate your child into the story. See if you can connect them to the artwork or story by relating them to a character or particular instance in the plot.
We read to connect. Illustrations and pictures help form connections.
One of the main goals of reading with your children is to help them build responsive connections and establish an appreciation for language, art, expression, and communication. By sharing art and stories with your child and engaging them with what's happening on the pages, you're opening up their minds to thinking abstractly, creatively, and critically. And, on top of all that, it's fun for everyone!