Why Picture Books Are Important by Jannie Ho

by Dianne on November 14, 2013

Jannie Ho book cover

I immigrated to the US when I was a young child. English was not my first language. I had to be in a special reading group to catch up and I was quite embarrassed by it. But my parents, who also did not speak English too well, bought picture books for my sister and me. I don’t know how they picked them with their limited understanding, but one of the books was Richard Scarry’s Busy Busy Town. The illustrations immediately caught my eye. I wanted to live in that world. I was curious enough to start looking at the words, and I eventually read the text. I would also use the book to look up vocabulary I didn’t know, matching the pictures to the words. Another book that I loved was The Berenstain Bears & Too Much Junk Food. I loved the food drawings in the book. So funny how you never know what a child might be connected to. It left me with a powerful impression, which I still remember like it was yesterday.

Now that I am a parent to a toddler, I see the importance of picture books even more. The moment when connections are made between words and pictures. The little details in a spread that a child finds amusing. The bond that I share with my daughter when we read together is priceless. As a picture book illustrator, I’m rewarded endlessly when I see a child get excited about books.

Jannie Ho headshot

About Jannie Ho
Illustrator Jannie Ho has always loved creating art for children. With a BFA in lllustration from Parsons The New School of Design, she has illustrated more than two dozen books from board to picture books, including The Great Christmas Crisis written by Kim Norman, Road Work Ahead written by Anastasia Suen, and the Tiny Tabs board book series published by Nosy Crow. Also known as Chicken Girl, Jannie was part of the faculty at SCBWI LA conference 2013.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne Roberts November 14, 2013 at 9:22 am

Thank-you for your perspective on the influence of picture books. I think we all aspire to have this kind of positive impact on children with our books.


atelierstorytime November 14, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I perfectly agree with you on the importance of picture books in learning a new language. I use them a lot during my English as a second language classes in Paris: children love stories and pictures so they learn easily.
I particularly appreciate what you say about “The moment when connections are made between words and pictures “: this is the way we learn our mother tongue and this is why picture books are so important also in learning a second language!


WriterSideUp November 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Jannie (I love your name, btw!), it seems to me your parents, just like you, were drawn to the illustrations of the books they purchased for you because, at that time, the words couldn’t really speak to them. And I would think that BUSY, BUSY TOWN looked like the kind of book that might help you learn the many English words about the world around you. Obviously, whatever guided them, they knew what they were doing 🙂

There really is nothing like a picture book 🙂


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