Why Picture Books Are Important by Jerry Pinkney

by Dianne on November 30, 2013

Jerry Pinkney book cover

The picture book is often a child’s first experience of looking at and reading art. Children learn to read pictures before they learn to sound out words or read full sentences, and for the very young, the partnership between pictures and text helps them take in and find pleasure in a narrative. It also stimulates a child’s desire to read words, and in this way, deciphering and understanding art becomes a small victory on the path to becoming a reader.

Given a child’s active imagination and inclination to dream, picture books support young readers’ own natural abilities. But these visual journeys also allow children to travel to places and meet people their imaginations could not get to otherwise; the characters and destinations that readers encounter help shape a sense of empathy for the unfamiliar and inspire comfort when a child can see that they are not alone.

To this day I fondly remember not only those narratives that fired up my imagination, but also the readers of those narratives and the places where stories were shared. Growing up in Philadelphia in the 1940s, the Pinkney household had few books. But oh, how the ones we owned were so deeply valued. They helped me transport myself to places not available in my everyday world.

Many years later, the power of the picture book rings especially true when I share stories with my six-year-old great-granddaughter, Zion. Opening a book, reading, and turning the pages can prompt a quizzical look, a smile, a burst of laughter, and so many questions from her. It is during these moments that I, as a bookmaker, understand that my efforts—as well as those of all who create books—are worthwhile and meaningful. And at that time, we are all on the same page.

Jerry Pinkney headshot

About Jerry Pinkney
Jerry Pinkney is one of the most heralded children’s book illustrators of all time. He has the rare distinction of being the recipient of five Caldecott Honors and the winner of the 2010 Caldecott Medal for The Lion & the Mouse. He has won the Coretta Scott King Award five times and the Coretta Scott King Honor four times, and has been nominated for the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award. He is also the first children’s illustrator elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives with his wife, author Gloria Jean Pinkney, in Croton-on-Hudson, New York.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

WriterSideUp November 30, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Oh, what a beautiful expression of what picture books (and books, in general) are and can be. So much is embodied in the experience. Thank you, Jerry, for this post and your wonderful work 😀


Lauri Meyers December 1, 2013 at 4:22 pm

So many possibilities are opened up with picture books, and so many fears are soothed between their pages too.


Sarah Floyd February 28, 2014 at 11:05 am

Incredible how great books from childhood stay with us.


Henrietta Porter March 25, 2014 at 6:29 pm

So true! Picture books can take kids anywhere. I look forward to sharing my picture book this summer and hope it captures their imagination as well! Thanks for the great post!


Anthony Grimes April 14, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you. The way you articulated this is very good. Picture books really are one’s first introduction to the world of art and such a healing way to process life.

I am currently working on a picture book (written by a kid) through a new company I am launching called UrbanMuse Media. Please follow our progress!



Lesley @ Australian Picture Books May 30, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Picture books are still my most loved books and I also fondly remember many of my childhood stories. My best gift is a picture book for babies upwards and enjoying them with my young grandsons is a simple and great pleasure.


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