Confession of a Picture Book Addict

How soon should you start reading to a child? I think the answer is, it is never too soon…

Fan Alex reading If Kisses Were Colors!

I once received an e-mail from a young mother. She told me that colleagues had given her my picture book If Kisses Were Colors as a baby shower gift. She began reading it frequently to her son Alex—in-utero! She reported that as soon as he was old enough to express any preferences, If Kisses Were Colors was his favorite book!

I’ll admit that I didn’t read to my son and daughter quite as early as Alex’s mom. I know I started when my son was a baby, and I read for hours at a time. I’m not sure why I did this, since I was not often read to as a child (my folks were loving, but busy). Perhaps it was because I didn’t have enough to say myself. I’m not talkative by nature, and I knew that hearing speech is very important for developing verbal skills.

Once I started reading picture books, I was hooked! I love the sounds words make and how they play off one another. Our voices are musical instruments that can make words sing across a spectrum—soft, loud, staccato, soothing, melodious, and more. When illustrations are added, both reader and listener are transported to a magical place. To a picture book place.

And for someone shy, like me, there is the realization that you can’t make a fool of yourself in front of the picture book crowd; they are with you all the way as you read the silly refrains of The Baby Beebee Bird or the nighttime cadences of Owl Moon.

I fed my addiction as my children grew older by writing my own picture books and continuing to read them and other stories out loud. My family still shares favorite holiday picture books, even though my son and daughter are now young adults. We laugh at Olive, The Other Reindeer. We tear up when an elderly couple, long separated since the Holocaust, are reunited by a Christmas Tapestry.

At least my addiction has benefits. Science tells us that reading out loud to a child encourages verbal development, fostering better communication and social skills. It builds a foundation for early literacy—the ability to read and write. It provides unique human connections via a snuggle or cozy side-by-side as a story is delivered by a reassuring, familiar voice.

But I confess that all these benefits for babies and children are of secondary importance to me. My passion and preference for picture books are fueled by the wonderful stories, the musical words, and the magical illustrations. Quite simply, I am a picture book addict—and I’m not looking for a cure!


Commenting area

  1. Mary Brooke# February 4, 2019 at 5:09 pm · · Reply

    Dear Janet,

    Please can I ask whether you are the author of The Snake poem? I am doing my teacher training in the UK and for a poetry lesson this week we are looking at a poem about a creature and the poem The Snake came up with your name attached. It would be great if you could let me know as I will be asking the children to think of questions to ask the author so if you would be ok to read and answer them that would be amazing!
    Kind regards,

  2. Janet Lawler March 7, 2019 at 7:56 am · · Reply

    Yes, I am the author! I would be happy to reply to your students questions. I have sent you an e-mail to continue this discussion off-blog.

  3. Erika Mikulski November 30, 2019 at 8:17 am · · Reply

    Dear Janet, my kids and I met you yesterday in Middletown CT. Thank you for spending time with my kiddos! They love stories and art and meeting people who create, as do I. It was a joy thank you!


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