Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Picture Book Is Worth A Thousand Words

Holiday wishes from Barbara at The Corner On Character
 and gratitude to my friend, author Vivian Kirkfield,
 for accepting our invitation to guest post for us today. 

“Read me one more story, please?”

Just about every parent and early childhood education teacher has heard this plaintive cry. Young children love to listen to picture book stories and they enjoy sitting in the class story circle, cuddling close to daddy on a comfy couch or leaning back on mommy’s lap as they help to turn the dog-eared pages of a beloved book.

Why should we read picture books to young children?

·      We read with them for entertainment and enjoyment.
·      Their messages can help young children deal with many of the challenges they encounter.
·      Reading with young children engages them in the world between the pages
·      Children are able to relate the events in the book to their own experiences. 
·      Studies show that children who are read to at an early age are more successful in school.

The question is, however, which books should you read? Thousands of titles are available at bookstores and libraries. Which books should parents choose for their preschoolers? 

My passion for picture books began over fifty years ago as I helped my mother turn the pages of The Little House. As a kindergarten and Head Start teacher, daycare provider, mom of three and author of a book that give hundreds of book and activity recommendations, I’ve been reading and researching picture books most of my life.  Here is my list of five top classic picture books...each book addresses different components of building self-esteem.

  Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus

Mastering tasks and skills is one of the most important components of a positive self-image. Young children learn new things at an amazing rate, but each child is unique and has his or her own time line. In this story, a little lion named Leo is unable to do the things his friends can do, such as write his name and eat neatly. His father is worried and questions Leo’s mother. She reassures him that Leo will do everything in his own time. She is proved right as Leo masters all of those skills.

What a beautiful story to read to any young child, but it may be especially helpful for children who seem behind age-mates. Although it is important to be aware of the various stages of a child’s physical, intellectual and emotional development because the earlier a problem is detected, the faster help can be obtained, we need to remember that each child matures at his or her own pace and should not be compared with siblings or playmates.

     Frederick by Leo Lionni

Valuing one’s own strengths and qualities is the second component of high self-esteem. Frederick’s mouse family scurries around to collect seeds and nuts for the winter while Frederick seems to be daydreaming. He explains that he is collecting sunshine, colors and words. When winter comes and the long cold days and nights seem endless, Frederick entertains his family and lifts their spirits by reciting the poetry he composed while the other mice were collecting food.

Sometimes it is difficult to praise a child’s interests if that child does not enjoy doing what the rest of the family likes to do, but, in situations like that, it is even more essential to provide opportunities to develop that child’s gifts.

Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie de Paola

The third component of building a positive self-image is to feel appreciated, loved and accepted for who we are. In this story, Oliver enjoys walking in the woods, reading books and, most of all, dancing. His father tries to convince him to play baseball or football and the boys tease him at school and call him a sissy, but Oliver continues to pursue the activities he enjoys. When he performs in a talent show and his classmates watch him dance, they come to see him in a more favorable light.

How can we give our young children a sense of pride?  We can copy Oliver’s father who allowed him to take dance lessons and then went to the talent show and praised him for his dancing. By doing these things, he helped Oliver feel good about himself.

 Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak 

Learning to express one’s feelings in a constructive way is the fourth component of high self-esteem. In this story, Max chases after his pet dog with a fork and bangs nails into the wall with a hammer. When he is sent to bed without any dinner, Max dreams that he sails to the land of the wild things where he is made king.  However, he misses his family and returns home to find his still-warm dinner is waiting for him in his room.

Young children can get into mischief, sometimes because they are sad or mad or upset about something that they have trouble talking about. When you encourage your children to come to you with their problems, and you listen without judging, they will feel more comfortable expressing their emotions, whether they are positive or negative.

   Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

Another component of a positive self-image is the ability to acknowledge and cope with one’s fears. In this story, a little girl goes blueberry picking with her mother.  Meanwhile, a bear cub is also on a blueberry hunt with his mother. Both girl and bear cub become separated from their own mothers and inadvertently begin following the wrong mother. The mix-up is resolved and both Sal and Little Bear are reunited with the correct parent.

Kids often get anxious when they lose sight of their parents because they are afraid their parents will not return. This story reassures young children that even if this happens (or their parents leave them at daycare or nursery school), the separation will only be a temporary one.

Looking for a fun-filled, self-esteem building, budget-friendly, educational activity for your preschoolers? Pick up a picture book and read to them!

With the holidays AND a long winter ahead of us, I hope you will check out my book, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking. It offers a story summary, an easy craft project and a simple child-friendly recipe for 100 recommended classic picture books. Think Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Book, but with craft and cooking activities! Right now, for a limited time, it is ON SALE on Amazon for ONLY $10. 

Author bio: Vivian Kirkfield is an educator, parenting speaker and author of the award-winning book for parents and teachers of children ages 2-8, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking. Her book has been endorsed by parents, teachers, self-esteem experts and national organizations such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) with a portion of the book sale proceeds going to the JDRF. Vivian’s Show-Me-How Story-time Program has been implemented in local kindergartens and she recently partnered with PBS, crafting paper plate Curious George puppets with hundreds of children.  She shares her passion for using picture books and positive parental participation to build self-esteem and strengthen the parent-child connection during her presentations to mom groups and teacher organizations. In May, she traveled to the 2013 Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore to speak about how picture books can be used as parenting tools to build self-esteem, develop better literacy skills and strengthen the parent-child connection. You can visit her Picture Books Help Kids Soar blog, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter or contact her at

Thank you, Vivian, for stopping by 
and sharing your expertise.

Click the book cover graphic above to see how we used Vivian's 
Show Me How! formula in the Gruener house.

For another ten titles to share with your pre-K kiddos, 
take this link to try Growing Book By Book.


  1. Thank you so much for the opportunity to guest post on your incredible blog! I love everything your blog is about...what a fantastic resource for parents and teachers. :)

  2. What a great post Ms Kirkfield!! And some good book choices. Thanks!

  3. Fantastic work Vivian! I really love your take on books, children and the relationship to authentic growth that we can provide as their guides with picture books. Thank you so much!

  4. Like those comments above I think the books you picked and your take on them is refreshing and validating. I am sure some mother is getting helped by reading this post. Thanks for introducing some books I had not heard of. :)

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