Why I Will Never Stop Reading Picture Books with My Kid

by Tom Burns

Let me just put this out there — there are some books that I will NEVER take off my daughter’s bookshelf. Never. No matter what.

And most of those books are picture books. Where the Wild Things Are. The Monster at the End of This Book. Flotsam. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs. Imogene’s Antlers. And so many more.

Here’s why …

Picture books are astounding creations, because more than almost any other form of literature, picture books come alive when they’re being shared.

My daughter is 8-years-old. She’s a tremendous reader, a voracious reader. She could sit down with almost any book and read it all by herself. Technically, she does not need me to read to her anymore.

But I still do. Every night.

And even though my daughter has graduated on to longer, more complex books — we’ve read Harry Potter, Narnia, Judy Blume, and more together — more often than not, when it’s bedtime, she asks me to read her a picture book.

Why is that?

Because picture books are the campfire story of the reading world. They’re warm, they’re inviting, they’re the perfect stories to bring people together.

They can be funny or they can be heartbreaking. They’re long enough to be compelling and short enough to hold your interest. They excel when it comes to the economy of language. They can tell complete, complex stories in thirty-two pages or less.

The authors who write those beautifully spare stories write them knowing that these are books that are going to be read aloud — read in a library, read at bedtime, read in front of an entire class — and the language reflects that. Those stories are illuminated, like ancient manuscripts, with some of the most eye-popping art you’ll ever see, in ways that draw you in and add extra layers of depth — visually, emotionally, and otherwise — to the reading experience.

So it doesn’t matter whether or not my daughter needs me to read them to her. Yes, reading a thirty-two–page book is not a huge challenge for a girl who can read a 500-page book on her own. But reading doesn’t always have to be about challenging oneself. Sometimes reading should be more about the experience, about taking a brief moment in time and sharing a story with a loved one, parent, or friend.

Yes, there are picture books that she’s outgrown. There are lots of picture books that are designed around very specific needs — to teach kids colors, shapes, heavy-handed morality — and those are the ones that end up in a box in the basement. But the best picture books, the ones that really draw you in and demand to be read aloud, those she’ll never outgrow.

So this is why I will never stop reading picture books with my daughter. Because I’m no longer her reading teacher. I’m her reading partner. We don’t read together anymore because we need to — we’re reading together because it delights us, because we love sharing the experience. That’s why, no matter if she’s eight or eighteen, I will always keep picture books on her bookshelf, ready for when we want to gather around the proverbial campfire, revisit some old favorites, and revel in the sheer joy of reading together.