Helen Oxenbury (of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt fame) is an expert on babies and books. In an interview about the importance of stories for young children, Oxenbury states, “It would be silly to do a board book with atmosphere and landscapes for a very, very tiny child who has no experience of that. All babies know what happens in their home with their mom and dad.”
I’ve been quite overzealous to expose Stella to stories that are way too complex for her developing mind. Honestly, these reading times have probably been more for me than for her. So, in remembering Oxenbury’s words, I’ve tried to be much more deliberate recently about sharing stories with my Bucca that correlate with her everyday sights and experiences.
We are a cat family, with two furry pals at home. Stella and the cats have become fast friends and she is now trying to say “cat” here and there. So…as I looked through the children’s section at the library last week, I discovered How To Be A Cat by Nikki McClure. The illustrations are in black and white (with occasional pops of blue) which really grabs my Bucca’s attention. Each page features a single word and illustrates the cats performing the corresponding feat; they explore, stretch, hunt and scratch (among other things).
This is not a board book, but Stella has not yet tried to grab at the pages. She is becoming more and more content looking at the illustrations and listening to my voice as I repeat the text. Most of the time, at least one of our cats will join us in the chair to read. This provides a great opportunity to show Stella one of her life experiences on the pages of a beautiful book.
There are so many more connections we can make, and I’m excited to explore more books that will highlight the things she sees each day. Have you made these everyday connections in children’s books? Please share below!
Lindsay (and Bucca)
Oxenbury Quote From:Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book, by Leonard S. Marcus.
So, you may be wondering why I began graduate study in children’s literature and decided to dedicate an entire blog to it. Back when I began my studies, I couldn’t really put my finger on what it was that drew me into the study of books for children. At the time I was working at an early childhood development center and was the proud aunt of a toddler boy. (I still am a proud aunt, although my nephew is certainly not a toddler anymore!) Being around young children at this time and hearing their interactions each day inspired me to try my hand at writing stories for kids. I then enrolled in a non-credit writing course. This not only enhanced my interest in writing, but it really ignited my passion for children’s literature. I re-visited so many stories I loved growing up and was introduced to more modern, complex, and fascinating tales and characters. Soon my bookshelves were bursting with more and more children’s books…and I didn’t even have a child of my own!
At the suggestion of a writing advisor, I decided to apply for a program to receive my Master’s degree in children’s literature. After an entrance exam and a lengthy application process I was accepted and began what would become one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. I became drawn to picture books as a writer and reader, so the first text of the first course I took in the program eloquently put into words my feelings about becoming deeply involved in children’s literature. In their book , The Picture Book Comes of Age, Joseph and Chava Schwarcz state that picture book components work together to impact a reader through, “…their playfulness – visual communication, optical illusions, and message in configurations of shapes and colors surround us, beckon to us, and often practically enwrap us” (3).
This is what I love about children’s literature: the experiential nature that invites readers to laugh out loud, stare at a lovely image, communicate their feelings, or just play. I have learned to appreciate children’s literature for this potential and I hope that your experience of children’s books will change or become enhanced through this blog.