Bridging the Opportunity Divide

B.J. Novak Wrote a Children’s Book That Has No Pictures

October 6, 2014
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B.J. Novak Wrote a Children’s Book That Has No Pictures
B.J. Novak reads from his new children's book. Screengrab via YouTube
It makes adult books less intimidating.

Young children are often drawn into the world of reading through picture books. Which is why it seems weird to hand a kindergartener a book with only words and no images.

But an innovative new children’s book by “The Office” actor, co-producer and screenwriter B.J. Novak called “The Book with No Pictures” encourages you to do just that.

As Novak writes early on in the book, “You might think a book with no pictures seems boring and serious,” but here’s what’s so genius about it: “Everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words say…BLORK. Or BLUURF.”

So sure, Novak’s book might be all text (albeit colorful and whimsical text) but it demands the reader to say some pretty silly, kid-friendly stuff. For example, when a reader says a phrase like “I am a monkey who taught myself to read,” you can already imagine a child reacting in hysterics.

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This book does two things: First, it removes the intimidation of picture-free big kid books, proving to children that words alone can be wonderful and awe-inspiring. As Novak tells Vanity Fair, “There’s a really exciting way to show kids that the written word can be their ally and that it’s possible to do something extremely powerful — which is overpower an adult and your experience with them, using only words — words that can be on your side.”

Secondly, because the book is designed to be read aloud, it puts the act of reading and listening to the forefront. It ultimately helps strengthen that oh-so important link between a reader and a listener. Not only that, studies show that the benefits of reading to young children are plenty: Doing so helps develop vocabulary, creates a bond between caregiver and child, improves a child’s ability to learn to read, enhances concentration and helps fosters a lifetime of love of books and reading.

“Reading, to me, at its most fundamental level, is freedom,” Novak says in an interview with The Atlantic. “Everyone who grows up loving books truly is much better off in life. The more curious you are about books, the more you self-educate. Kids start to get that in their teenage years — books can either be homework, or they can be fuel for rebellion. If it’s the latter, you love reading. This book is one way to show even the littlest kids, ‘This stuff is for you, buddy.'”

Click here to listen an audio snippet of “The Book with No Pictures,” or watch the video below of Novak reading his book to a room full of delighted children.

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