Why Picture Books Are Important by Paul O. Zelinsky
People have given so many reasons why picture books are important, and they are all true. Picture books are a source of love and confidence and shared emotion between a reader and the youngest child. Picture books are a unique form of storytelling, and storytelling is at the core of how we learn to experience the world. Picture books are the bridge to a life of reading.
In addition to this, I would like to talk about picture books as a bridge to art. Picture books have to be one of the earliest contacts a child has with the experience of visual art, and in some cases they may be the only one. When you see actual, original art—pencil marks or brushstrokes that an artist’s hand has applied to the very paper or canvas in front of you, the experience is special in a way that is impossible to describe. If you’re ever in New York during the Society of Illustrators’ annual exhibit of children’s book art (called “Original Art,”) you can see how gripping these dramatic and beautiful pictures can be. Art reproduced and printed on paper is several steps away from this special experience, but good reproduction is as close as many people are likely to come to the full experience. It turns your eyes on, the way a story can work on your thinking mind.
The picture book blends the act of seeing and reading, or being read to, and adds the act of turning the page — all things that place you in a very physical relationship with the object.
There is nothing else like it.
About Paul O. Zelinsky
Paul O. Zelinsky has illustrated about thirty books, and written several of them. Among his best-known works are the moving-parts book The Wheels on the Bus; Rapunzel, which won the 1997 Caldecott Medal; and the Caldecott Honor book, Rumpelstiltskin, which has been published in over fifteen languages. He illustrated the popular “Toys Go Out” series by Emily Jenkins, several books by Beverly Cleary, and Anne Isaacs’ tall tales, Swamp Angel and Dust Devil. Paul lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife Deborah. They have two grown daughters.