How NOT to Read a Picture Book

Ten guaranteed ways to destroy a good picture book
(without a Sharpie or a bonfire)

  • Always read in the same tone of voice, without expression or accents. Especially if it’s only a mediocre book that you’re tired of reading one more time—your child will be offended if you read Clifford with a Southern drawl!

    • You should definitely avoid Raising Sweetness by Diane Stanley, The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake, The Tale of Tricky Fox by Aylesworth and McClintock
  • Don’t bother looking for books you enjoyed as a child. They won’t be nearly as good as you remembered.

    • Richard Scarry books, Where the Wild Things Are, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Cat in the Hat, all of the Frances books by Russell Hoban, Frog and Toad books by Lobel
  • The illustrations aren’t true art—they don’t really matter. Cheap dollar store books are good enough, especially Bible stories like Noah’s Ark and classic fairy tales.

    • See variations of Noah’s Ark by Jerry Pinkney, and Peter Spier; compare with other versions. For fairy tales, Zelinsky’s Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky, St. George and the Dragon illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
  • Never let your child pick what he or she wants to read. They don’t know what’s best for them.

    • Fly Guy readers and I Spy books
  • Never suggest anything new. They probably won’t like it, and neither will you.

    • This Is Not My Hat, Tea Rex, Yoo-Hoo Ladybug, A Visitor for Bear
  • Don’t read it again. You’ve gone through it once, your child will be tired of it already!

    • Green Eggs and Ham, Are You My Mother?, George and Martha by James Marshall, Tikki Tikki Tembo, Do Like a Duck Does
  • Get them out of the picture book stage as soon as possible—they need to get on to real books that have nothing but text on the pages.

    • Bartholomew and the Oobleck, Pink and Say, classics beautifully illustrated by Tasha Tudor or Lisbeth Zwerger
  • You will never discover anything new in the illustrations. Don’t bother lingering over them. Kitten Red, Yellow, Blue

    • One Cool Friend, Goodnight Gorilla, Kitten Red Yellow Blue, Johnny Crow’s Garden
  • The relationship between the text and pictures is irrelevant. Don’t waste your time comparing the two.

    • Officer Buckle and Gloria, Shark vs. Train, Orange Pear Apple Bear, Z is for Moose, Moonday
  • Ignore the cover and endpages. There are never any curious hints about the story in them.

    • Elephant and Piggie books, Creepy Carrots, Locomotive and Moonshot by Brian Floca

It’s National Picture Book month! We’ll spend the coming weeks discussing books that you should read only once in a monotone, pointing out nothing about the illustrations, ignoring the mediocre covers and endpapers and finding nothing new comparing text with art.

Librarian’s challenge:
Read 25 picture books between now and Thanksgiving. Is there anything noteworthy about them? Does it make a difference HOW you read aloud? Did you find any new authors or illustrators that you like? Come back and tell us!

Have a nice day.

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Stay Up to Date!

Get the information you need to make wise choices about books for your children and teens.

Our weekly newsletter includes our latest reviews, related links from around the web, a featured book list, book trivia, and more. We never sell your information. You may unsubscribe at any time.

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Megan Saben

Megan is Associate Editor for Redeemed Reader, and she loves nothing more than discovering Truth and Story in literature. She is the author of Something Better Coming, and is quite particular about which pottery mug is best suited to her favorite hot drinks throughout the day. Megan lives with her husband and five boys in Virginia.

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4 Comments

  1. Leah Kelley on November 8, 2013 at 8:53 am

    I love this post. Thank you! I really appreciate the suggestions for new picture books. Also, my little one loved Good Night, Gorilla. We got it from the library with a CD that read the book to her with sound effects. She LOVED it!

  2. Janie Cheaney on November 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    🙂

  3. Megan on November 9, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Ooh, a wordless picture book read with sound effects? I’ll definitely have to look for that one!

  4. The Warren & the World, Vol 22 ‹ Story Warren on January 4, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    […] ​Make sure you read it in a funny voice. Read more. […]

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