Why Picture Books Are Important by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

by Dianne on November 30, 2014


Why Picture Books Are Important, by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

As we get older, I think we start to forget how much picture books and the read-aloud experience affected our younger selves, how certain picture books helped shape us into who we are today. Picture books are important because childhood is important. Picture books help inspire today’s young people into becoming tomorrow’s thought leaders. Picture books help create a lifelong love of reading.

Picture books enable even the busiest of us to enjoy a good story in just a few minutes. In a world where so much is rushed, picture books encourage us to slow down and savor.


I’ve been so enjoying reading the “Why Picture Books Are Important” essays by children’s book authors and illustrators this past month as well as Marcie Colleen’s Curriculum Connections at the end of every post (teachers, also take note of Marcie’s excellent Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide).

Yesterday, Kelly Light compared picture books to an Imax movie for a little kid…but even better, because they’re active participants and get to be the director.


Before that, Brian Lies said that picture books are the entry ramp to the highways of literacy and a lifetime of exploration and questioning.

Rene Colato Lainez showed how picture books are windows to the imagination.

Betsy Lewin talked about how picture books sparks curiosity about the world and improves language skills.

Aaron Reynolds explained how picture books let kids read long before they can read.

Loreen Leedy talked about how picture books invite children to participate.

Kathleen Krull marvels how lucky we are that we -and young readers- “live in an age of so many glorious picture books.”

Lupe Ruiz-Flores pointed out that an engaging picture book story can make an emotional connection with a reader, and this in turn can turn a reader into a lifelong book lover.

Judy Schachner doesn’t believe in miracles, but does believe in picture books.

Marla Frazee talked about the shared moments and magic of picture books.

Ted Lewin strives to make each picture book a journey of a lifetime.


Jill Esbaum talked about how picture books aid in a child’s emotional development.

Sandra Markle points out how picture books are generational, and that she’s getting to discover picture books yet again as she reads with her grandchildren.

Johnette Downing talked about bonding moments that help us share a lifelong love of reading.

Alexis O’Neill showed us how a picture book is a living thing, holding our hearts in thrall until the last slender page.


Anna Dewdney reminds us that picture books help children learn to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

As Sophie Blackall said, picture books help children learn about themselves by showing what it’s like to be someone else.

Ann Whitford Paul pointed out that picture books share the universality of experience offer comfort, letting children know they’re not alone.

Ame Dyckman reminds us that picture books can be tiny universes for adults as well as children.


David Schwartz told us how a picture book was “an invitation to wonder and imagine on an unbounded scale” when he was young.

Carolyn Dee Flores believes that a culture is reflected most vividly through children’s literature and that humanity propagates through children’s literature.

Arree Chung talked about the superhero powers of picture books and how they feed a child’s spirit.

Robin Preiss Glasser told us how picture books may help heal a community.

Chris Barton says that picture books are a wonderful way for parents and children to begin a childhood-long habit of reading together.

Linda Joy Singleton showed us how picture books are food for the soul, nourishing young minds and hearts.


Kelly Bingham points out that a picture book may be the very first time a child encounters a story that he can relate to. “It may be the first time your child realizes, ‘wait – I’m not the only one who feels that way?'”

Deborah Heiligman talked about how picture books encourage children to keep asking questions as they get older.

Stefan Jolet said that picture books unlock children’s imaginations and inspire them.

And Aaron Becker explained how a picture books physically connects a child to their world through story.


If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to browse the Picture Book Month archives. So many wonderful posts: some funny, some deeply moving. All are inspiring. Huge thanks to founder Dianne de Las Casas, co-founders Kate Davis, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Tara Lazar and Wendy Martin, and others behind the scenes at Picture Book Month, Picture Book Month partners, PBM logo artist Joyce Wan and educational consultant/author Marcie Colleen for this wonderful celebration of print picture books.

While many of us enjoy and appreciate picture books throughout the year, it’s nice to have an excuse to throw an extra special party during November.

– Debbie Ridpath Ohi


About Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the illustrator of New York Times Notable picture book I’m Bored and Naked!, both written by Michael Ian Black (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers), and Judy Blume classics reissued by Atheneum. Her first solo picture book, Where Are My Books?, debuts from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in May 2015. She posts ideas, resources and activities for encouraging lifelong reading habits in young people at For The Love Of Reading. You can find Debbie on Twitter at @inkyelbows.

Picture book Month Theme: Creativity

Curriculum Connections

Just like Spencer in Debbie Ohi’s forthcoming picture book Where Are My Books? we all have books we turn to again and again. But why do certain books become our favorites?

Ask children to bring in their all-time favorite book for a Show ‘n Tell in which they will say three reasons why this book is their favorite.

Then, with guidance, each child should write a love letter to the book or the author of the book clearly explaining why they have chosen this particular book to be their all-time favorite. Each child should share their letter with the class at a culminating “We Love Books” party. Children who choose to can also read their books aloud to the group.

Correlates to the Common Core Writing standards: W.K.1.2, 8; W.2.8; W.3.2; W.4.2; W.5.2; Speaking and Listening standards SL.K.1,4, 6; SL.1.1,4; SL.2.1,4; SL.3.1,4,6; SL.4.1,4; SL.5.1,4

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

:Donna November 30, 2014 at 1:27 am

Debbie, thank you for pulling out quotes from each post this month. I’ve read them all, too, and your summary totally brought back the beauty of each post 🙂

I wasn’t aware of Where Are My Books?, but am glad I know now! That image of him hugging his book—precious!

P.S. Debbie, PLEASE put a “follow by email” widget on your sites. My reader gives me trouble so I don’t use it and would love to get notified of new posts by email. Pleeeeeeease 😀 😀 😀


Debbie Ridpath Ohi December 2, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Donna: So happy to hear you enjoyed my post and the rest of Picture Book Month. Thanks also for the nudge re: “follow by email” — I’ve been meaning to start up a list like this and your comment is the nudge I need. Hope to get it online very soon.


:Donna December 2, 2014 at 2:32 pm

I hope so, too, Debbie 🙂


Dr. MaryAnn Diorio November 30, 2014 at 6:31 am

Thank you for your post on the importance of picture books. As the first books we generally read, picture books help lay the foundation for the way we perceive the world. This foundation affects the rest of our lives.


Dr. MaryAnn Diorio
Author of Picture Book, Who Is Jesus?
Publisher: TopNotch Press, 2014


Debbie Ridpath Ohi December 2, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Dr. MaryAnn: Absolutely true!


Diane Paine November 30, 2014 at 9:35 am

I think picture books are important because they are an introduction to imagination. Children need to be taught how to “experience” books. It is not a passive activity-like watching tv. Through relating the pictures to the story, children can begin to understand how to form pictures in their “mind’s eye.” This leads to a lifetime love for reading because they can experience the books in a very real and meaninful way.


Debbie Ridpath Ohi December 2, 2014 at 1:27 pm

Diane: Good points! Especially how picture books engage while television-watching is passive. Thanks so much for sharing.


Suzanne kaufman November 30, 2014 at 11:14 am

great post. Picture books are universal. They can make you connect to the world. They let you see the best and the worst in a safe place. They can make you laugh or cry when you needed to the most. They are the beginning of a life long conversation between you and your child. They are where I fell in love with words and art.


Debbie Ridpath Ohi December 2, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Thanks, Suzanne. Especially loved “They let you see the best and the worst in a safe place.” So very true!


Dow Phumiruk November 30, 2014 at 11:46 am

I couldn’t agree more: “Picture books are chocolate for the soul.” And no calories! Thank you for sharing, Debbie!


Debbie Ridpath Ohi December 2, 2014 at 1:34 pm

You’re welcome, Dow. So glad you enjoyed my post. 🙂


Teresa Robeson November 30, 2014 at 11:57 am

Brilliant summary, Debbie! Now I don’t have to read those actual posts. Kidding!

Picture books are important to me because they can be something a child can devour on her own. Sure, people stressed the bonding with reading them aloud with one’s parents (or other adult figureheads) but for those of us whose parents were working long hours and could not read with us, it is no less a special thing for a kid to be able to own the experience herself. I felt like picture books spoke and belong to me personally. At a time in my young life when most things had to be filtered through an adult, having some item or experience which I can grasp and interpret all on my own was empowering. That is why picture books are important, in my opinion.


Debbie Ridpath Ohi December 2, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Thanks, Teresa, and good point re: picture books being just as special to a child has to read picture books by themselves because their parents are working.


C.L. Murphy November 30, 2014 at 1:55 pm

We love your art, Debbie! What a wonderful way to end Picture Book Month by mentioning every one of the glorious posts! Thank you to all of the Picture Book Month founders for giving November another reason to be thankful. 😀


Debbie Ridpath Ohi December 2, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Thank you, C.L.! (and thank you for the kind words about my art :-))


Sheila @ BrainPowerBoy November 30, 2014 at 3:12 pm

I love picture books! I will seek out beautifully illustrated books for my son (and myself!) We both enjoy reading them and we enjoy reading them together even more.
I think picture books are an important part of learning. First looking at the illustrations, then reading and learning the words, then understanding the story, then putting the illustrations and story together for greater understanding–then. . . if one is lucky, taking all of that and learning to write and illustrate your own stories. Wonderful.
Looking forward to seeing your new book!


Debbie Ridpath Ohi December 2, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Sheila: Yay for loving picture books! And excellent points re: picture books being an important part of learning.


Debbie Ridpath Ohi November 12, 2015 at 9:40 am

Hi Sheila — I drew your name as the random winner of WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? I’ll contact you through your website.


Sheila @ BrainPowerBoy November 12, 2015 at 10:58 am

Thank you so much! I can’t wait to see the book. I am super excited 🙂 Best wishes, Sheila


Andrea November 30, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Thanks for this wonderful summary and linkage! A great wrap up to all the different perspectives and enthusiasm for picture books.


Debbie Ridpath Ohi December 2, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Thanks so much, Andrea! Nice to hear from a fellow MiG Writer. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed my Picture Book Month post.


Debbie Gates December 1, 2014 at 4:48 pm

NickTheDog and I are involved in library reading programs and picture books let me watch the “lightbulb” moment happen for kids as they connect some-word-they-couldn’t-previously-read to a picture and then start to recognize it as it recurs on later pages. Reading out loud can be intimidating for some kids… an engaging picture book and a non-judgmental fluffy dog let kids relax and start to enjoy the process. (And my readers last year loved my copy of “I’m Bored” so much that the library added it to their collection.)


Debbie Ridpath Ohi December 2, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Debbie: I remember that wonderful photo you sent of Nick The Dog and a copy of I’M BORED as he was waiting for the children to arrive! And HOORAY for the library adding it to their collection — thank you so much!!!


Elizabeth Dulemba December 2, 2014 at 9:33 am

Thank you for that lovely wrap up Debbie!! 🙂


Debbie Ridpath Ohi December 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Elizabeth: Thank YOU for co-founding Picture Book Month as well as well as that wonderful calendar!


Margo Sorenson December 5, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Thank you both, for this inspirational and affirmative post! With much grateful aloha and tante grazie, Margo 🙂


Margo Sorenson December 5, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Debbie and Elizabeth, thank you both so very much for adding to our children’s literature enthusiasts’ litany of fabulous posts that affirm the power and wonder of picture books! Aloha and tante grazie, Margo 🙂


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