We recently did an hour-long conversation over at Instagram Live. Sanne and I talked about the importance of picture books in the early years, if they are considered “living books,” and how to use them in your homeschool.
If you missed that, you can find the video at the end of this post, or you can just read this show notes of sorts.
The Importance of Picture Books
We’ve long been advocates of reading illustrated books in the early years. The usual talking points about its importance are that doing so builds imagination, promotes memory-making, provides some wonderful bonding moments. And of course, it helps raise readers!
But there are more impressive things we can say about it.
- Illustrations add details to the story and give a complete picture especially for young children who have not seen a lot of things in life yet, especially during this pandemic.
- Neuroscience research by Dr John Hutton, as told in the book The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction, indicates that reading aloud with accompanying pictures reinforces a lot of neural activity. This was compared with just reading aloud the text of a book without images (some neural activity) and watching a video (least neural activity).
- Reading aloud books with pictures builds good foundations for lifelong learning and academic success, starts a reading habit, and scaffolds pre-reading skills.
Wonderful picture books are not just books with pictures.
Well-written and beautifully illustrated ones can sometimes catch your breath with their depth and complexity. As Sarah Mackenzie says….
“There’s nothing a novel can give your child that a picture book can’t.Sarah Mackenzie
Are picture books living books?
We usually get requests for or questions about “living books for kindergarten/preschooler.”
First, let’s talk about living books. We have several articles about it, but in short order, living books are written with knowledge, passion, enthusiasm, and great skill; they are interesting and engaging.
Charlotte Mason herself says it beautifully:
The thing is, to keep your eye upon words and wait to feel their force and beauty; and when words are so fit that no other words can be put in their places, so few that none can be left out without spoiling the sense, and so fresh and musical that they delight you, then you may be sure that you are reading Literature, whether in prose or poetry. A great deal of delightful literature can be recognized only by this test.Charlotte Mason in Ourselves
The same criteria apply to picture books, but this time, it’s not just the way a story is written, but also how it is illustrated. Wonderfully illustrated ones give more details that complement and supplement the text.
Sometimes, parents are hesitant to use a book that’s not on a book list, even though the young child is struggling to listen to and engage with a purely textual book.
We always say that we are not beholden to booklists but to our children, and we should consider what our children need at a particular period.
So yes, some picture books are living books, and you may definitely use them in your homeschool.
Years ago, we read that the gentle early years curricula Before Five in a Row (BFIAR) and Five in a Row (FIAR) were inspired by the Charlotte Mason (CM) philosophy.
True or not, we personally find BFIAR and FIAR to be the perfect introduction to the world of Charlotte Mason with their wonderful picture books. Different CM curricula also have such books on their booklists such as Joan of Arc, the Holling books, and the David Macaulay books.
How to use picture books in your homeschool
There are so many ways that you can use picture books in your homeschool.
- Make your own unit studies in the style of BFIAR and FIAR. You may of course, also follow the actual BFIAR and FIAR manuals, which Sanne and I both did with our children. Read here and here how much fun picture books are when used in preschool homeschool!
- Include in your child’s early years Charlotte Mason curriculum, or make picture books your main books, which I did with my youngest.
- Learn Filipino the fun and easy way with Filipino picture books. Check our living Filipino books booklist here.
- For early elementary, you can use picture books set in different places for your geography studies. You can do local, Asian, or world geography.
- For both FIAR and CM, you can use picture books as read-along or supplements to your main books.
- Celebrate or observe special occasions or holidays with related picture books.
- Use as “break” books when your child needs to read something lighter. You can also plan for light unit studies during summer breaks. Sanne does this even now that her daughter is 11 years old; her daughter requests for them!
- Most importantly, strew picture books around the house for your child to pick up, read, and grow up to be a reader!
Watch the video here
- 00:01 – Short introduction
- 01:18 – What made you start homeschooling?
- 05:19 – The importance of picture books
- 15:21 – Are picture books living books?
- 27:47 – How to use picture books in your homeschool/home