Why Picture Books Are Important by Arree Chung
SUPERHEROES: Remember when you used to play superheroes at recess with your friends? You could do anything, and be anything you wanted to be. All you had to do was use your imagination. Child development experts say that playing superheroes fosters empathy, grows empowerment and improves conflict resolution. That may all be true, but for me, it was about the fantasy. And the best part of it, was that your friends were playing too. But at some point we all stopped playing. When was it? Was it when we started feeling the pressure to do well in school? Did we have more important things to do? We had to stop playing around. My parents stressed the importance of education so I followed the directions. This led me to a job where I made spreadsheets all day.
Great. I felt the life being sucked out of me. Thankfully, the creative spirit is hard to suppress. By my mid-twenties, I found my way to Pixar, where I worked in production management. I got to see firsthand the work of storytellers. They had super powers. They had the ability to tell a story and make us feel. It was around this time that I started reading picture books again. I had loved so many as a child but was not familiar with contemporary authors. Then, I discovered Olivia, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, Don’t Let Pigeon Drive The Bus and so many more. I laughed out loud and wanted to be in their world. It made me dream again. I closed my eyes and recalled all thestories I read as a kid. I wondered what was it like to ride inside a giant peach. I remembered the sadness I felt when I finished the last pages of Charlotte’s Web. I remember thinking Shel Silverstein was a strange but very wise man.
These stories stayed with me. They fed my spirit and gave me antidotes when I needed them the most. It also jump-started my creativity. I began to look at the world with a childlike wonder and started dreaming up possibilities. I stopped looking at what has been done and started thinking about what could be and that I wanted to do. That’s why I think books are magical. Stories are the expression of the human spirit. Books capture our imaginations and reach us in a deep way so deeply it can move us. If that’s not a super
power, I don’t know what is.
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” – Albert Einstein
About Arree Chung
After spending his early career in consulting, Arree quit the business world to join the creative world. He is the author and illustrator of Ninja! and a founding member of Live in a Story. Live in a Story’s mission is to bring the best in children’s book illustration into the homes of children. Every wall is a blank canvas. www.arree.com www.liveinastory.com
Picture Book Month Daily Theme: Superheroes.
While reading Ninja! by Arree Chung aloud, have students make a list of the verbs Chung has used. Examples include: sneaks, creeps, tumbles, hides, rebound, etc.
Using at least 3 of the verbs found in Ninja, have students create their own Superhero story. Give the Superhero some verbs that make him or her extraordinary. Can they fly? Leap high? See through walls? Start with the 3 verbs from the story and add any other fun verbs to up the action.
Or, create the Superhero story as a group and have each individual child draw a picture of the Superhero in action!
Correlates to the Common Core Writing standards: W.2.3. W.3.3; Language standards: L.2.1, L.3.1, L.4.1
LIBRARIANS and TEACHERS OF YOUNGER GRADES: Read Ninja! aloud. Ask children to listen closely and whenever Ninja Maxwell does something ninja-like they are to stand up and act it out. Focus on the “verb” being depicted by asking children to say the verb before they start their action. Continue in this way throughout the reading of the book.