Children’s Book Week: Loving Books Even Before I Could Read

Even before I could read, I loved books and magazines.  My mother had a family medical encyclopedia full of anatomical drawings.  I loved looking at the skeleton, muscle groups, organs, cardiovascular system, etc.  It all fascinated me.

I also had a tendency to kidnap the National Geographic magazine.  I still love the photos it contains.  Animals, people, landscapes, starscapes.  They’re all great.  My father learned that if he wanted to read it, he needed to get to it first.  Not that he minded my choice of “reading,” but he didn’t want to wait.  Apparently I was a rather slow pre-reader.

Every book in the house that had a number of photos was fair game.  That meant that I pulled down book on cacti and the Davis Mountains, Native Americans and regional histories.  I looked through cookbooks and sewing books, manuals and guides.  My uncles beading books for scouts were among my favorites.

Fortunately, my father worked on a survey crew in highschool and still loved maps, because I adored them.  US Geological Survey maps, fire insurance maps, globes and atlases.

Everything visual was on the menu.  I even remember one trip to the art museum when a guard got down on the floor with me as we looked into the lid of a mummy’s sarcophagus.  Even before I could read my own language, I loved looking at hieroglyphs, both Egyptian and Mayan, Chinese pictographs, Hebrew, and more.

All of this may explain why, although I’m a writer vs being an author/illustrator, I always giving my son wordless books as well as I Spy books and other nonfiction books that heavily rely on illustrations and photography.  I think my favorite wordless picture book is still Tuesday by David Wiesner.

Whether you are an author or an author/illustrator, take the time to study wordless picture books.  Our audience isn’t entirely made up of readers and these books are marvels in pacing and story telling.  Images and imagery are both part of the storytelling toolbox.