Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why Picture Books Matter

     As we welcome students back to school this fall at Essex Elementary School, a special display of picture books and their storybook characters are crowded together in a hallway display case inviting children and adults to stop and look, spot their favorites and even discover some new stories to search for on their next trip to the library.   
     Picture books are like pirate booty: a treasure chest of visual and written delights!  They are a unique form of literature.   A common misconception is that picture books are for very young children, and that once a child can read independently they have outgrown this type of book.  Picture books encourage critical thinking and promote visual literacy with their sophisticated marriage of text and illustrations.  Children have the opportunity to practice their skills of inference and prediction, and are exposed to a rich vocabulary and creative uses of text (called author’s craft).  The subject matter is boundless; picture books range from humor to biography, from factual information to fantasy, from moral stories to deep tales of humanity.  The writing can be tender or beautiful or clever or hilarious. And the illustrations? There’s such a range of styles between illustrators; picture books are like a mini-trip to an art museum!

     When looking at picture books through the lens of the Essex Town School District’s End Policies, one can see that they address policies 1.2 Students will develop attributes for life-long learning in a complex world through:
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
and 1.3 Students will demonstrate functional and critical thinking skills in the use and understanding of information, media and technology.

     Picture books are a very flexible medium for people of all ages, largely because of their visual nature.  And, most importantly, they are FUN!   If you are interested in reading more about picture books, read Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter; Conversations With 21 of the World's Most Celebrated Illustrators, compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus, Candlewick Press, c2012.

     Another inspiring book is Anita Silvey's Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book: Life Lessons from Notable People from All Walks of Life (Roaring Brook, 2009).  Anita also writes an incredible blog called Children's Book-A-Day Almanac.


So, give your child a special treat!  Curl up in a favorite spot with your child and enjoy a picture book tonight. They’ll love you for it.  Check out for a wealth of suggestions, or the suggested websites on my blogroll. Or better yet, ask your favorite librarian !