Why Picture Books Are Important by Arree Chung

by Dianne on November 8, 2014

Arree Chung cover

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

Arree Chung

Arree Chung

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.

Curriculum Connections

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.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Suzanne Gene Courtney November 8, 2014 at 8:11 am

Hello! The Super-Hero Theme for this month can be linked to my children’s books on death, grief, and loss. In Ride to the Stars, the hero is the turtle, Honu. In Dear Diary: My Brother Died Today, the hero is the little girl’s brother who passes away but remains with her. Death does instill fear in children. They see their grandparents leave, or sometimes a parent or sibling, or a beloved pet. I write from experience and have shared my books with many schoolchildren. Books can lend hope and laughter once again.


Joanne Roberts November 8, 2014 at 11:08 am

Thanks for sharing the truth, that we give up on childhood too soon. Thanks for introducing me to Live in A Story. What an exciting venture!


Kelly Ramsdell Fineman November 8, 2014 at 4:31 pm

This was SUCH an inspiring, truly great post. Thanks, Arree!!


:Donna November 12, 2014 at 10:46 pm

Arree, I just love how you not only pointed out how important picture books are to children, but what they can mean to us as adults. This was a great analogy! Picture books DO have super powers! 🙂 Thank you for this.


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