Having blogged about “More Than Words,” our public library’s program featuring four children’s book illustrators, I realize once again the importance of the pictures that tell the story. Mo Willems, famous children’s author and illustrator, grew up with immigrant parents and “read” the illustrations of books when he was young, since he didn’t know the language on the printed page. We know that young children can pay more attention to the illustrations, than to the words and linger on a page to take it all in so we need to be alert to the drawings too.
You can build your child’s language by talking “about” the page, in addition to reading it. Follow your child’s eyes to see what they are looking at and describe the picture. Talk about what you see, how it relates to your child’s life or yours and tell the story through the pictures. As long as your child seems interested you can continue to discuss the illustrations on the page. Talk about what you like and ask her what drawing she likes. Research has shown that when parents talk “about” the story rather than just read the words (which is also valuable) when children are around 3 years old, their language skills improve at a faster pace. This is called dialogic reading. Exciting illustrations can encourage language development.
That being said, I wanted to share some of my favorite illustrators. For a birthday gift, my friend, Jean, gave me Dirt on My Shirt by Jeff Foxworthy, illustrated by Stephen Bjorkman who is a friend of hers. This lively collection of poems chronicling the adventures of a little boy and his cooky extended family–Uncle Keith with the great big teeth, Auntie Brooke who loves to cook, or grandma with lipstick on her nose. Stephen Bjorkman’s expressive ink and watercolor illustrations bring a little boy’s delight to life as he stomps in the mud, stares down a cat or builds a tree fort. Having raised three boys, my favorite is “Making Friends,” featuring what bonds best friends–giggling at jello, making forts, or just plain making a mess! The best part about my gift was the personal drawing that Stephen included in the front cover especially for me and my kids at Play on Words. Thank you Stephen for your charming drawings featuring kids’ boundless energy and intrigue! Believe it or not, I shared your special drawing and book with my 2 1/2 year old grandson over I-Chat on my computer tonight. He loves to be read books when we video chat!
Laura Cornell illustrated several of Jamie Lee Curtis’ books including Big Words for Little People. She fills her pages with mini-stories of the gang’s capers related to the “Big Word” on each page. Providing details that embellish the story, she engages the listener with each vignette like shopping for shoes, waiting in line for the water slide or pausing to cross the street.
The Pout-Pout Fish’s illustrator, Dan Hanna, sets a lonely fish in a whole ocean of fun with wacky details of peanut butter jars and delightful sea creatures popping up and down. Follow the drawings as you bob through the ocean, watching the Pout-Pout Fish’s encounters with his pals.
Who are your favorite children’s illustrators? Please share them with my readers in the comments below.