A Tacky War


time and penguins march on

Urgency Day 196

500 Things Items 297-304: Chapter Books

  • History: Good memories of stories and snuggles
  • Value: Beyond reckoning
  • Parting Pain: A gentle wistfulness but not pain
  • Un-possessing: Donations

What’s with a war on pictures books?

Have you heard: Certain zealous factions have decided picture books are inappropriate for Properly Educating young minds. And when I say young, I mean any child with a tooth. I’ve seen several recent reports full of the sort of predictable hyperbole that elevates extreme early chapter-book reading to a guarantee of giftedness. And therefore success and happiness.

Didn’t they used to say the same thing about cutting along the lines?

The Self-Contained Unit: The one whose departure to college I am chronicling here, the one who will depart to one of those fancy-pants schools Back East in August? Not reading early. Most of the girls and a few of the boys in his first grade class were reading well before him.

Please note that I said “not reading early” as opposed to “not an early reader,” because he was an early reader. They just weren’t books with a lot of words; they were picture books. He adored picture books.

His favorites:

  • Cars and Trucks and Things that Go by Richard Scarry
  • 10 Minutes till Bedtime by Peggy Rathmann
  • Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester

By sheer repetition, his favorites became my favorites (well some of them), and I’ve included these and others on my 250 Books List.

Fortunately, not all the experts insist on ripping anything by Tomie dePaola out of your preschooler’s hands. I loved the quote from Thomas Wartenberg in a piece in the Chicago Tribune called, “When Should a Child Outgrow Picture Books?”

“People underestimate the conceptual complexity of picture books. Because they are so much fun, people think they can’t raise difficult and important issues.”

That list above? Tacky does learn to be his own penguin, and Tacky still has fun.

Paul and I are absolutely convinced that the prime motivator in Sam’s desire to read wasn’t the devotion to the written word he would develop; it was his love of Zelda, the video game. He got sick of us getting sick of being called into the TV room to read the game captions to him. There were only so many times I could patiently stop my work to read lines like,

“The wind… it is blowing.”

And now I can only think, “Play it again, Sam.”


4 Responses to “A Tacky War”

  1. boysgonewild Says:

    I don’t know if I am more outraged or depressed.
    No picture books?
    Because BOOKS would inhibit READING?
    People. Are. Crazy.

    PS – We currently have “Three Cheers For Tacky” on load from the library.

  2. sthibeault Says:

    I knew this would get under your skin. And you know I am thinking of Linda right now. Three cheers for “Three Cheers for Tacky”!!

  3. melanie Says:

    Picture books are still my favorite books! They gave my children labels for their world, ideas, concepts, laughs, solutions to problems. I do have the full library of Cat in the Hat books. And who can forget the classic “The Happy Man and his Dump Truck.”

  4. sthibeault Says:

    Or hiccuping in purple. I believe!

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