Why Picture Books Are Important by Betsy Lewin

by Dianne on November 26, 2014

Betsy Lewin cover

Why Picture Books Are Important by Betsy Lewin
Children discover and explore the world around them first through visual language. Picture books help to organize and make sense of the world by telling stories in a sequence of pictures. When those stories are read by a parent a child can begin to make connections between the art and the words and eventually be able to read the book alone.

When I was a child I loved the tactile act of holding a book and feeling the weight of it in my hands, the anticipation of what adventures awaited me, what characters I would meet along the way, and best of all, what would the pictures be like?

Our house was full of picture books. I remember sitting on my mother’s lap while she read Winnie the Pooh. I can still hear her voice as she gave life and personality to the characters immersing me in their world. I loved the story unfolding and the thrill and anticipation I felt with every turn of the page. I would study the book by myself, trying to read the story through the pictures. Eventually I could. Winnie the Pooh was the first book I learned to read by myself, and Ernest Shepard has been a huge influence in the way I visualize my own picture book characters.

I’ve watched the daughter of best friends embrace picture books from the time she could crawl. Their living room is literally carpeted with them. Now nearly four years old, she is able to point to and name characters and objects in the stories, and her language skills improve rapidly.
Her curiosity about the world around her grows and she engages everything and everyone with
bursting enthusiasm. Soon she will be reading all by herself, expanding her world, her interests, her social skills and her chances of a full and satisfying future. Observing all of this reaffirms my convictions that picture books are indeed an important part of our lives.

We all understand the power of the word, but visual language also remains powerful throughout our lives. It’s true that a picture can be worth a thousand words, and picture books prove it.

Betsy Lewin

Betsy Lewin

About Betsy Lewin
Betsy Lewin always loved to draw and never wanted to be anything but an artist. The illustrators A.B. Frost and Ernest Shepard were among her earliest heroes. Her first picture book was titled Cat Count. Betsy says “I’ve been doing picture books ever since and loving every moment.”

Betsy’s art is usually humorous, drawn in pen or brush with watercolor washes. Many of her books have appeared on the New York Times Best Seller List. She received a Caldecott Honor for the illustrations in Click, Clack, Moo; Cows That Type as well as a silver medal from the Society of Illustrators. She was also awarded a Ted Geisel Honor for Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa.

Picture Book Month Daily Theme: Farm

Curriculum Connections

Many books, like Click, Clack, PEEP!, use onomatopoeia (sound words) in the title. Other examples are Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss and Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, ilustrated by Betsy Lewin.

Take the students to the library for an Onomatopoeia Scavenger Hunt. Students can be in groups of 2-3. Set a timer and allow them to search the shelves for more onomatopoeic titles. The group who find the most before the timer goes off, wins!

Next, read each of the books and ask students to raise their hand when they hear onomatopoeia. If a page does not include onomatopoeia, have the kids write fun onomatopoeia for that page based on the illustrations.

Discuss why an author would choose to use onomatopoeia in a story. What mood or affect does onomatopoeia create? How would you rewrite the story using more formal language?

Correlates to the Common Core Language standards: L.2.3; L.3.3; L.4.3; L.5.3

LIBRARIANS and TEACHERS OF YOUNGER GRADES: As you read through Click, Clack, PEEP!, point to each character and item in the illustrations. Ask children to come up with an onomatopoeic word for each.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

:Donna November 26, 2014 at 1:39 pm

Betsy, I love your and your husband’s work. You add SO much to this world of KidLit 🙂 And you know, this imagery is so perfect:

“Their living room is literally carpeted with them. ”

You can’t do that with a ipad! 🙂


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