Why Picture Books Are Important by Steve Jenkins

by Dianne on November 18, 2013

Steve Jenkins book cover

There are so many reasons that picture books are important that it’s hard to know where to start. Based on my own experiences, I’d like to focus on two relationships that are made possible by picture books.

The first is the connection that is established between a parent or teacher and a child when they read a picture book together. There is nothing else like it. I read lots of chapter books and young adult novels to my own children when they were older. That too is a rewarding experience. With these books, however, children tend to become a passive audience, lost in the world created by the author. This is not at all a bad thing — it’s one of the reasons that we love to read as adults. But when my kids were younger and I read picture books with them, there was much more back and forth. There were constant questions about the images, the story, or the facts (in a nonfiction book). Reading and looking at a picture book has its own rhythm, and there are often natural pauses that invite interaction and mutual discovery.

The other important relationship fostered by picture books is one between a child and the wider world. Whether an adult is reading a book aloud or a child is reading it herself, picture books nurture the imagination and help a child make sense of the way the world works and the way other people live.

Steve Jenkins headshot

About Steve Jenkins
As a child, I managed a menagerie of lizards, spiders, and other animals. I also collected rocks and fossils and blew things up in my small chemistry lab. My interest in science led me to believe that I’d be a scientist myself. At the last minute, I chose instead to go to art school in North Carolina. After graduation I moved to New York City, where I worked in advertising and design. My wife and I began reading to each of our three children when they were a few months old, and I became interested in making children’s books myself. My first book was published in 1994. Since then, I’ve written and illustrated more than 30 nonfiction picture books.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly Ramsdell Fineman November 18, 2013 at 10:48 am

I appreciated this post and the thoughtful way that Steve differentiated between the more active processing of picture books and the more passive processing of chapter books and novels on the part of a listening child. Lots to think about here.


megwrites November 19, 2013 at 12:37 am

I love the point that sharing a picture book together is a more interactive experience than reading aloud a chapter book. I’ve never thought about it just like that before.


WriterSideUp November 20, 2013 at 11:20 pm

So true! So much learning and interaction that’s done only through picture books 🙂


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