Why Picture Books Are Important by Kari-Lynn Winters
Picture books challenge our conceptions, unite us in universal narratives, and move us beyond words. If picture books were created after e-books, people would go crazy about their extraordinary design. People would say, “Look! You can actually turn the pages!” or “Wow! Check out the vibrant colors!” Printed picture books are the perfect medium to share three synergistic forms of representation: 1) the memorable stories that we carry with us, 2) the illustrations that capture our imaginations, and 3) the performed read-alouds that comfort us and make us laugh.
As an assistant professor in a faculty of education in Canada, I would suggest that picture books (including board books) are crucial for students of all ages. They teach children about diverse cultures and beliefs, how to enjoy literature, decode words, make connections with the world, think critically, and write their own stories. Research demonstrates that without picture books, many of us would not comprehend printed texts as well as we do today (Stagg Peterson & Swartz, 2008; Winters, 2010).
In the classroom, I use picture books at every opportunity with young children, youth, and adults. Picture books are awesome pre-texts, offering students opportunities to better understand areas of the curriculum from language arts to math and from science to social studies. They engage students, encouraging them to hear the voices of others, to better visualize a variety of settings, and to feel connected with the lived experiences of diverse characters. Teaching teacher candidates with picture books is very satisfying. They see that picture books are flexible. They can be read silently or performed. They can be quiet or interactive. With a picture book in hand, new teachers often feel more secure as they know they have a safety net.
Finally, as a parent, I am grateful for picture books. Often I would throw one or two in my diaper bag or purse – just in case. Here, my children and I had an entry point into our imaginations, a boredom tamer, and a way to be together. Now they are older, but they still adore listening to stories and reading on their own. I have no doubt that picture books contributed to their love of literature.
An incredible and inspiring scholar once wrote, Those who cannot imagine, cannot read (Eisner, 1998). I have no doubt that a world without picture books would be a world where people’s imaginations would be stifled. Picture books are important to me – I treasure the creativity they bring to my life and the ways they connect me to my world.
About Kari-Lynn Winters
Dr. Kari-Lynn Winters is an award-winning children’s author, playwright, and academic scholar. Sixteen of her picture books have been published or are under contract. A natural storyteller and trained actor, Kari-Lynn continues to be invited to perform/present at literacy conventions and festivals all over the world. Kari-Lynn is also an experienced teacher of writing, who has taught a range of students in Canada and the United States, including preschool, special education, primary and intermediate, high school, and university teacher education. Kari-Lynn recently accepted a position at Brock University as an Assistant Professor. Her research interests are children’s literature, drama in education, and multimodal forms of authorship. More information about Kari-Lynn can be found on her website kariwinters.com.