Two Teenagers, Picture Books, and a Closet

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We read books. Secretly. No, I am not talking about the Fifty Shades of Grey. We read picture books and enjoy them immensely. It is like an unspoken pact that the boys have with me. I take the entire blame for the swelling numbers of picture books in the library. They pretend to not care. It is working out well so far. They are teenagers and there is a limit to which you can challenge the teen boundary of cool and not cool. Reading picture books falls on the opposite side of the boundary. I do not challenge this. They do not need to shout from the rooftop how much they loved a particular picture book. I do that for them.

I don't blame them. They would never hear the end of it if word got out. Thing is, their peers have been systematically conditioned to be in a hurry to grow up. And one of the sad markers is the kind of books one reads. Picture books fall in the diaper-wearing, drooling infant stage. At best, till pre-school. After that, the child might yearn for them but the grown ups do not. Over the years, many reasons have been thrown at me, two of which have remained a constant:

Waste of money!

Picture books are a colossal waste of money, I am told. The child gets done with it within a few minutes and then it is a waste. I usually recommend yellow pages, or better still, the Phone directory with yellow pages, to such people -lots of pages that take a lifetime to read.

I understand that some of them are exorbitantly priced but to say they are a waste is unfair. Picture books are savoured not just for the story. Sometimes there is none. It is the power of words and the pictures together that create an experience unique to each reader. And they are always revisited.

He can read whole sentences. It is time to move to bigger books.

Academic prowess and reading interest do not necessarily go hand in hand. You might come across theories that expound the importance of 'encouraging' a reader by presenting more 'challenging' reads to him. I disagree. The only sure shot way of encouraging a reader is to surround him with books he loves. The challenges are automatically taken up as the child starts to swim freely in the world of books. Providing a challenge by thrusting chapter books and banning picture books, backfires. I have two bookworms at home that are a perfect example. There has never been a transition; there only have been additions. So our shelves are full of picture books, beginner chapter books, middle reads, and YA, absolutely not in that order.

Picture books are not just a rung of a reading ladder.  There are some excellent ones out there which are sufficiently layered to be enjoyed by all ages. The boys loved chewing on the board books when they were babies. As toddlers, the pictures told a different story each time they turned the pages. The book also became a weapon in case of a disagreement. By the time they were in first grade, they started sticking their chest out in a bid to look older. The picture books started gathering dust. 'It is for babies!' I was told. I continued picking the ones that I fell in love with anyway.

In the last few years, they have come back. They read everything, from blood curdling YA reads like 'The Bunker Diary' to their all time favourite  'Where the Wild Things Are.' The only difference is, we have the pact. They are not ready enough to go against the tide and declare to the peers that they love picture books. So I do not egg them to come out of the closet. I sit there with them and ogle at the goodness between the pages. We discuss how the illustrations transform from the beginning to the end. They point out the nuances they spot, the character that appears on each page despite her not being a part of the narrative yet, the way the text swirls around, and the tiny poster they noticed in the background when they read the book n+1th time. These books are a journey for them - with each extra mile, they discover something new.

A few days back, the younger one dreamily looked at the cover of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild things are, and declared, 'I wish I had a forest in my room.'

I was reading A Bhil Story.

'I can't bring the forest in your room but we can surely paint a tree!' And so we are still working on the ten-foot Pithora tree.

That is what we get from picture books - art transcending the pages and seeping on to the walls of our rooms, and into our hearts.

Oh, and the picture books in the library? 'They are mum's. Yeah. She reads all sorts of things.' 



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Well picture books that contains animals, birds, vegetables, flowers, tress, automobile and many others are definitely reminds us our childhood memory. Books that having pictures are easily get the attention of teenagers and children and most probably this is best way to understand a thing or concept. Instead of words now days authors are taking the help of images and pictures to make our kids learn better; but sometime use of pictures are always brings some negative impression on kids such as unwanted pictures and image consists of some negative issues. It is quite better to learn picture books under parental guidance.

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