Children's picture books can be powerful things - frequently dealing with themes and issues that strike at the heart of human existence. Think of Bernard in David McKee's Not Now Bernard, whose parents seem to ignore him, even when he appears to have turned into a monster. Such picture books work for children in many ways - providing opportunities for enjoyment, recognition, reflection and discussion and are used by teachers as the basis for classroom activities.
Sharing Books for Social and Emotional Understanding takes the notion of children's responses to picture books in a very particular direction. It uses a range of mostly familiar and well-loved picture books as a means of opening up different social and emotional issues and is intended for use with all children in school - for discussion, circle times or assemblies - and at home.
There are suggested talking points, debates, circle time themes and follow-up activities for classrooms. Parents also are offered talking points and things to do to follow up each book - many of these involving play, role play and making things together - and are simple and enjoyable rather than "heavy".
Many of the picture books, such as Owl Babies (Martin Waddell), Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak), or Oscar Got the Blame (Tony Ross) are classics. The authors' sincere aim is to promote children's emotional growth through the kinds of discussions which will take place around being afraid, fear of separation, losing something and much more. Hopefully, teachers and parents who buy this book will be helped to realise the power and depth of the reading experiences provided by picture books written by such wonderful authors.
Assistant director, centre for language in primary education