Why Picture Books Are Important by Brian Lies

by Dianne on November 28, 2014

Brian Lies book cover

Why Picture Books Are Important by Brian Lies
Picture books are the entry ramp to the highways of literacy and curiosity. They’re what we first encounter, giving a hint of what else might be ahead in our reading lives. Each one is a small, wonderful world, in which turning a page brings a surprise, or an anticipated answer. They are “doable” journeys, not too much to handle, in which we see things outside of our own lives. In the process, we build imagination—can all of the things in these books really happen? Of course not. But the ability to consider “what if?” is the cornerstone of imagination, of possibilities. Adults who can’t imagine a “what if” can’t see beyond their own lives, past their own roadblocks, and surely have more limited lives.

My older sister was an advanced reader. I felt pressure to read— and the weight of my own inability. I remember frustration that I couldn’t translate those little black marks on the pages. I recognized many or all of them, but they made no sense to me.

Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever was a favorite, because of the detailed pictures. We played games (“who sees a balloon that someone lost?”), or just reveled in the action on the pages. One day, the little black squiggles next to the pictures gave up their sounds to me, and the connection fell into place. The squiggles next to the apple? They SAID “apple!” Though it took some time for me to gain fluency with those squiggles, I still remember the excitement of that breakthrough.

My early experiences with picture books paved the entry ramp to a life of exploration and questioning, one in which every bird on the lawn has a story. I’m profoundly grateful for the roads that they opened to me.

Brian Lies

Brian Lies

About Brian Lies
Brian Lies was born in Princeton, NJ and graduated from Brown University with a degree in British and American Literature. He became an editorial illustrator before entering the world of children’s books. To date he has written and/or illustrated more than two dozen books, including his NY Times bestsellers, Bats at the Beach, Bats at the Library, and Bats at the Ballgame. His most recent book is Bats in the Band. He lives in eastern Massachusetts with his family and two cats, and travels around the country to work with young readers in schools.

Picture Book Month Daily Theme: Bats

Curriculum Connections

Picture Books are “small worlds” or “doable journeys.” While on this journey, why not let children build their imagination?

Help children sharpen the tools of prediction and questioning while enjoying the journey. Read Bats in the Band by Brian Lies aloud and before turning each page, ask the group what questions make them want to turn the page. What do they want to know?

All students should partake in the full group discussion, listening to others’ questions and allowing those questions to spark other questions within themselves.

Correlates to the Common Core Speaking and Listening standards: SL.K.1, 2, 6; SL.1.1,2,6; SL.2.1,2,6; SL.3.1,6; SL.4.1; SL.5.1

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

:Donna November 28, 2014 at 2:01 am

Brian, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you—twice :)—at the Princeton Book Festival, this past time getting to see, in person, your BatMobile! Your books are brilliant and your talent is simply outstanding. Learning about your childhood relationship with picture books deepens my already deep appreciation for you and your work. Thank you for sharing!!


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