by Carol Hampton Rasco
President/CEO, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF)

What a special week in the Children’s Literature World…two of my favorite “specials” this month are the start of Picture Book Idea Month (plus two days!) and the birthday of Reading Is Fundamental where the 45th birthday will be celebrated Thursday, November 3 with Lilly and her famous purple purse with lots of children and special guests at the Library of Congress!

And you know what? I see PiBoIdMo as seriously connected to RIF and our mission. Each time I write or talk about this year’s major milestone birthday of 45 years for RIF, I talk about the 380 million magical moments, the 380 million books placed into the hands of children over these 45 years RIF has existed. And guess what? The majority of those 380 million moments have been brought about by picture books given our primary audience of birth to 8 years of age.

Within that age group, RIF seeks first to serve those children most in need and sadly, with poverty the greatest indicator of probable difficulty to read well and independently by the end of third to fourth grade, it means according to the latest poverty reports we have that even more children by comparison in years past to ignite, to motivate, to inspire to learn to read. This means in reality, we need so many different books in order to strike that chord deep within a child, to create the birth of that “aha!” moment, that “wow!” experience that has a child believing “If I can read, I can do anything, be anything.”

Last year I wrote in my guest post for PiBoIdMo noting three types of picture books we hear about most as on the “wanted” list by teachers, reading specialists, PTA parents, Kiwanis Club members—RIF volunteers of all stripes and professions: nonfiction that is “eye and mind catching”, bilingual books, and multicultural books. The requests continue to be the same. All three categories are also critical to the family involvement component RIF believes critical to the success of our mission in motivating children to love reading.

Last weekend I saw again in person the beauty of a picture book that had four generations of individuals pouring over a book, sharing common knowledge and experiences elicited by the book in front of them. It is a picture book about animals in winter—“it doesn’t look like a true fact book, they’re usually boring” as generation two noted in his 6-year-old voice. Generation one was intrigued by the pictures, generation two was eager to learn more about the animals he already had discovered, parents of gen two had no idea about some of the more unusual facts and gen three had information to add about ways these animals were viewed in “the olden days.” After going through the book the family discovered information added by the author at the back and headed to the computer, four generations together again! Gens one and two were reading the text even…what a great experience for the family together…it was a spontaneous activity shared following a meal and lasted with no whining for more than 30 minutes. This family is not unique, no reason this animal book would have been predicted to be the one to “catch their eyes” over others. But it connected for them; it was a prolonged magical moment. And to serve the children and families who need us most, we need lots and lots of books portraying life and our surroundings in oh, so many different ways!

With Thanksgiving now on the horizon, our Hampton multi-generations will for the 32nd year read sometime before the meal begins “Thanksgiving at the Tappletons’” by Eileen Spinelli (1982 version) which was given to my son on his 6th birthday that year. It is a tradition every child entering the family savors when old enough to follow the laugh lines and even more when old enough to be a reader!

A magical moment…that is what you are creating in a picture book…memories that plant the seeds of a lifetime love of reading. My best wishes to all of you as you put those ideas into writing this month! Hurray, more magic is on the way!

Happy Reading!