Thursday, October 27, 2016

THE PICTURELESS PICTUREBOOK AS DISRUPTER [Part 3, completing the Intro to BOXED SET: 7 Books With No Pictures by Sage Merriman]

The Pictureless Picturebook is... a disrupter, certainly, of the illustrated world—at least for the individual child who is ready... and reaching... to read.

But the greater disruption isn’t of the picturebook. It is of the commonly followed pathway beyond it... from the picturebook forward to and through “early reader” books and chapter books. To them it poses an alternative, as in the famous roads that... 

“...diverged in a wood and I—I took the one less traveled by.”*

Not that these roads (the Pictureless Picturebook, the early reader and the chapter book) cannot be combined, mixed and mingled: They share literacy as a common destination. But one is a direct path while the other two meander.

The Pictureless Picturebook, as it grows gradually in complexity, becomes the narrative of adult literature.


Think about the situation of the child who has been on a strict diet of picturebooks. He or she expects to see illustrations, but in their place finds none. 

Instead, the Pictureless Picturebook provides a challenge, leading to the moment when a first bold step is taken.

A step to be celebrated... that connects the child to the heritage and immediacy of the written word.

Said another way, it is not unlike learning to jump the first hurdle in a race. There comes a time when one must simply try, leave the ground under one’s own power, with the possibility of a bad landing... in order to acquire the skill... which must then be repeated... and refined... if one is to become fast and fluid... and fully competent.

Some fall and must dust themselves off and try again—because the first step for the reader, as for the runner, is a big one. It requires some risk-taking and calls forth the child’s creativity. And it demands persistence in grasping for meaning... as synapses connect in new ways.

The Pictureless Picturebook works in this context because, save and except for its absence of illustrations, it maintains every other element of the traditional picturebook format and thus... meets every other expectation of the child.

It joins the issue of learning to read and creates that “one small step” Moon Shot opportunity, beyond which the world is never again quite the same.

Which is why—when it’s time for the child to begin to pull away from the constant consumption of illustrations—the Pictureless Picturebook makes sense and such a good... next... step.

It’s like the “Advance to GO” card in Monopoly—a big move to the starting point of adventure.

It focuses the child’s attention, in the most familiar and comfortable setting possible, on the words that remain on the page. The words alone:

As conveyors of meaning....

As artifacts to be considered individually, studied, compared, sounded-out....

As building blocks to be seen in patterns and relationships with one another....

Pictureless Picturebooks thus create a bridge to reading that—with a little nudge and some encouragement—is easily crossed.

That’s the theory.

The seven books gathered in BOXED SET are, when taken together, an experiment with which to test it yourself.

Cross this bridge with your little one, and anything’s possible.

-Sage Merriman
September 10, 2016

Robert Frost.

You’ve been reading the Introduction from Boxed Set.

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