At the start of almost every art class (pre-K through 2nd grade) I read a picture book related to the lesson. There’s a magical quality in the air when kids raise their eyes in wonder and let themselves be drawn into something that isn’t even on a screen.
A telling moment for me is when kids go “Whoa!”
In Ian Falconer’s Olivia, this happens without fail when she learns how to make sand castles, and gets “pretty good” by crafting the Empire State Building.
They also always say “Whoa!” in Janell Cannon’s Verdi when the young python shoots himself off a branch into the air:
They’re genuinely impressed by these actions. “But wait a sec,” I want to say. “You’re saying ‘whoa’ like you actually believe Olivia built that, and Verdi can fly. You do see they’re just drawings, right? Not even digital of 3-D or that realistic or anything! Please tell me you’re just playing along, or mouthing this ironically. Because if you can somehow be that invested in a simple picture, it either means you have some sort of psychological disconnect with reality, or that these books have some kind of magical spell. But how can a few floppy, stapled, reproduced pages invoke magic? If books can make you believe in the impossible with just a few simple words and lines, then think of the power they have? I mean, the genuine, mind-altering and world-shaping power!”