Debi Gliori: How Picture Books Help Children Talk About Their Feelings
Illustrator and writer, Debi Gliori, explains how picture books can help children find a way to express how they feel and address their fears and anxieties.
My name’s Debi Gliori and I’m an illustrator and a writer. When I’m writing, I don’t consciously put myself in the frame of mind of a child. I probably never grew up so I’m in a sort of dream state when I’m writing and illustrating and I think that the dream state is a bit like the state I was in as a child.
I think picture books and, books in general, are the perfect place to address anxieties and concerns for children. Usually they tend to be read at bedtime which is the time of day where the biggest anxieties and fears tend to bubble up. When you address these fears like, I suppose, death or loss of a parent, or being lost oneself or being bullied at school, if you address it through the means of a picture book, you’re doing it at a slight remove. So, the child doesn’t seem threatened by discussing the subject because it happened to somebody in a picture book. They can discuss it in complete freedom and, hopefully have their fears and anxieties allayed by the book.
One of the great things about books is that they can become part of the language you use in your home. Sometimes if we get stuck and we don’t know what to say, the books will actually give us the language to express how we feel. For example, if your children are feeling really, really grumpy they might say ‘I feel like the Gruffalo today!’. Or if they’re getting a bit above themselves they are possibly like Mr Toad out of The Wind in the Willows. And I have moments where I definitely feel like a ‘wild thing’ because I want to run after my children and ‘eat them up because I love them so’.
Books can give us that, they can give us the way to express exactly how we feel.