A few years ago at DeepSouthCon 50, I had the privilege of meeting Sandra Tayler, who kindly gave my children an autographed copy of her picture book Hold on to Your Horses (written with illustrator Angela Call). My daughter loves the book, and we have read it together many times. So I was very excited to see that Sandra has just launched a Kickstarter for the sequel, The Strength of Wild Horses. I'm a backer, and I strongly encourage you to check out and consider supporting this deserving project. Meanwhile, I asked Sandra if she'd drop by Bowing to the Future and give us her thoughts on Why Pictures Books Matter. (Hint: They do!).
by Sandra Tayler
Advocates of reading are quick to tell you that picture
books are very important, that they are the beginning of literacy. Which is
true. Studies have shown that children, who are read to, have an easier time
learning how to read later. Experts also say that picture books teach children
the shapes of sentences, the sounds of language. Reading time creates bonds
between children and their care givers. But picture books do something much
more subtle and important; picture books teach story.
Human beings use stories to explain our lives and our
history. Cultures have pervasive stories that define them. For example America
thrives on the story that anyone can succeed if they apply themselves. It is
the American Dream told over and over again in movies, books, and songs. Japan
has stories about balance and living in harmony with nature. Other cultures
have stories of obedience or strength. As children are read picture books they
begin to partake in these cultural stories. They begin to understand what they
can expect from the world and how they should fit into it.
This happens on a smaller scale too. The stories that
parents choose for their children are expressions of their family culture. They
can choose stories that emphasize competition and triumph, or stories that
speak of cooperation and sharing. They pick stories that express their values
and beliefs, and the children begin understanding “this is who we are” and “these
are the things that we do.”
For me one of the greatest powers of a picture book is to
give a child the story they need when they are struggling. The child who is
fearful at bedtime can learn to laugh by reading The Nightmare in My Closet. Ish
can help a child who wants to do everything perfectly. Three Cheers for Tacky can help the child who doesn’t quite fit in
with peers. All of these stories empower the kids who struggle. The kids can
imagine themselves being as triumphant as the characters they read about. When
my children are struggling, I try to find a book that speaks to them. On the
occasions that I couldn’t find one, I wrote one. Because stories matter.
Stories change how people see themselves and once people see themselves
differently, they become capable of more. This is true for young people as well
as adults. That is how the world changes, through stories, even short rhyming
stories with pictures.
Sandra Tayler is a writer of children's fiction, speculative
fiction, and blog
entries. She has sold stories to anthology markets, and her blog won an
AML award for online writing. Sandra
spends much of her time as the publication and distribution half of the
Schlock Mercenary comic business. Sandra’s current project is a
Kickstarter to fund her latest picture book, The Strength of Wild Horses. Please stop by and take a look.