Why Picture Books Are Important by Emma Walton Hamilton

by Dianne on November 7, 2013

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“There are two ways to educate the heart: life experience, and stories about life experience,” said children’s lit champion and read-aloud activist Jim Trelease.

Great picture books do educate the heart, as well as the mind. They offer children insight into the world around them and provide reassurance and coping strategies for life’s challenges. They inspire wonder and supply comic relief. And when read aloud by loved ones and trusted elders, they send powerful messages to our children about the degree to which we value and cherish them, cultivating subliminal connections between reading, pleasure and empowerment.

But they do even more than that. They also educate the ear and the eye. Because reading abilities and listening skills don’t converge until around 8th grade, picture books offer younger children a multi-layered way to engage with story. Nuances and subtleties, new vocabulary and meaningful ideas, all become available in the read aloud experience – for which picture books are inherently designed – and prepare children to become better listeners in later life. And because they’re picture books, the words tell only half the story. The rest is revealed by the art, which helps kids notice details in the world around them, plants the seeds for art appreciation, and teaches them to look beyond words for emotional clues with respect to communication.

To top it off, they’re a tactile and sensory delight. Their weight and texture, the crispness of their pages and the scent of linen or paper, the range of shapes and sizes, and the scope of visual and auditory treats they contain… Who doesn’t love them? They’re a candy store, a secret garden, a best friend, a map and a set of wings, all rolled into one!

Emma Walton Hamilton headshot

About Emma Walton Hamilton
Emma Walton Hamilton’s bestselling picture books include The Very Fairy Princess and Dumpy the Dump Truck series, co-authored with her mother, Julie Andrews. Emma’s book, Raising Bookworms: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment was a Parent’s Choice Gold medalist. She teaches children’s book writing for Stony Brook University’s Creative Writing MFA and online, and directs the Southampton Children’s Lit Fellows program. She is also a freelance editor, and creator/host of ChildrensBookHub.com. Visit her at www.emmawaltonhamilton.com.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

patientdreamer November 7, 2013 at 5:30 am

Love the imagery of a picture book; They’re a candy store, a secret garden, a best friend, a map and a set of wings, all rolled into one!


Jenna November 7, 2013 at 8:55 am

Wonderful post. Great reasons for why parents should continue to read picture books with their child even after the child is learning to read on their own.


C.L. Murphy November 7, 2013 at 10:43 am

Great post! Love how you describe PBs: “They’re a candy store, a secret garden, a best friend, a map and a set of wings, all rolled into one!” They’ve always been my favorite!


Kelly Ramsdell Fineman November 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Gorgeous post. I’ve copied much of it into my notebook for future reference!


Catherine Johnson November 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Brilliant! I especially like ‘set of wings’


Emma Walton Hamilton November 7, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Thank you all! So happy to share my passion for picture books with like-minded colleagues!


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