Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Magic of Picture Books

by: Karina Nicole González


Picture books are the perfect tools for targeting a range of language skills like critical thinking, sequencing, and narrative development. In fact, picture books and board books are often a child’s first encounter with printed sentences. Therefore, the positive impact that these books have on literacy and language development is an area that researchers have studied for decades.

I’m a bilingual speech-language pathologist for school-age children in Brooklyn, NY. During a therapy session with one of my students several years ago, I showed her a copy of Isabel Quintero’s, My Papi Has a Motorcyle. This student, who presented as a reluctant reader, was instantly intrigued by the cover illustration and title of the story. As we read the book, she began to tell me that her father rides a bicycle to work and that her family speaks in Spanish just like the family in the story. After the session, she became more curious about my collection of picture books and wanted to read more stories. This culturally-affirming reading experience allowed her to relate to books in a new and positive way. Much like My Papi Has a Motorcycle, sophisticated picture books present students with opportunities to learn about other cultures or perhaps even see their own reflected back to them. These reading experiences can foster compassion and empathy for the multicultural world that we inhabit. This is precisely the magic of picture books. 

Educators and parents can cultivate a love for reading by simply presenting stories that resonate with children. Authors have the awesome responsibility to create an honest reflection of the world with our stories, while also reminding readers that there is hope, love, and joy around every corner. When writing stories from this place of authenticity, children can connect to the story on a deeper level. These realizations, along with the joy of reading with my students, propelled me onto this gratifying journey as a children's book author. 

There are innumerable lessons that I’ve learned over the course of my first picture book publication, yet I begin each new project with the same central question and intention:  “Why am I writing this story and what do I want to communicate to the reader?” Before drafting a manuscript, allow yourself to get curious about your characters. I often focus on a concept or condition experienced by a character. This allows me to write a story with intention. Once you establish the intention of the story, you can expand your ideas from that center point. That is the process that I follow for each story that I write. 

If you are composing a manuscript of your own, you will surely experience moments of discouragement. Just know that you are not alone. Find that book or activity that draws you in and shifts your creative perspective, if even for a brief moment in time.  When I’m searching for clarity or purpose with a manuscript, I find myself revisiting Eduardo Galeano’s El libro de los abrazos/ The Book of Embraces. In it, he wrote that humanity is, “…an ocean of little fires. Each person shines with their own light amidst all of the others.” I believe that humanity is an ocean of cuentitos, or ‘little stories.’ Keep sharing your stories with the world.

Karina N. González is a bilingual speech-language pathologist at an elementary/middle school in Brooklyn, NY and author of the Kirkus-starred picture book THE COQUÍES STILL SING / LOS COQUÍES AÚN CANTAN (Roaring Brook Press, 2022) and forthcoming picture book THE CHURRO STAND / EL CARRITO DE CHURROS (Cameron Kids, 2024). Karina has an AAS in Textile Science from the Fashion Institute of Technology and a MS in Speech-Language Pathology from Brooklyn College. Karina resides in Brooklyn, NY and Aguadilla, PR.


No comments: