Why Picture Books Are Important by Johnette Downing

by Dianne on November 16, 2014

Johnette Downing book cover

Why Picture Books Are Important by Johnette Downing
My earliest memory of childhood is of being rocked by my mother as she read and sang to me. The rhythmic creak of the rocking chair against the floor and the beating of her heart with mine echoed in the stillness of the night as we cuddled and she read a picture book while I listened for the descending cadence in her voice that told me it was time to turn the page. These are the bonding moments I have treasured throughout my life and are what made me want to be a writer and singer. It didn’t matter which book she read or which song she sang, it was those quiet moments of personal sharing of something of beauty and wonder that transported us from our living room to worlds of limitless potential, a springboard to a life I would create for myself beyond my wildest dreams.

My second memory of childhood is yet again centered upon the printed book. My father is an avid reader and had a library in our house. The shelves of books on all four walls went from the floor to the ceiling and I immersed myself in theology, philosophy, and the classics all the while visualizing that my own books would one day find themselves on those very same shelves.

Books were and are important to me because of the value my parents and I placed upon them. Printed books are not only the objects to behold and the meaning to be gleaned, but also the time we take to read and the moments we spend bonding that make us share a love of life-long learning. Books give us the gift to imagine and the foundation to leap into a life we conceive, believe and achieve for ourselves.

Johnette Downing

Johnette Downing

About Johnette Downing
Called the “Musical Ambassador to Children” and the “Pied Piper of Louisiana Music Traditions” by the media, Johnette Downing is a multi-award winning children’s musician and author. Dedicated to cultural sharing, fostering literacy and celebrating childhood through her music, books and programs, Johnette Downing has received twenty-two international awards and has performed in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Central America, North America and the Caribbean. Johnette is the author of fourteen picture books (Pelican Publishing) and ten music recordings for children, the cofounder of the New Orleans Haiku Society, and the recent recipient of the New Orleans Magazine Top Female Achievers Award and the CityBusiness Magazine Women of the Year Award.

Picture Book Month Daily Theme: Food

Curriculum Connections

Using the delicious illustrations in Macarooned on a Dessert Island as inspiration, children can write a haiku.

Cupcakes bend in breeze
As the gumdrops pitter pat.
Sugar scents the air.

Have students work with a partner or individually to create their own haiku based on their favorite tasty treats. Remind them of the pattern they will be using. (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables… remind them that it is syllables NOT WORDS!)

After the rough drafts are complete, students can work in peer editing groups, or conference with the teacher to edit their work. For an extra special touch, students can illustrate their haiku.

Correlates to the Common Core Writing standards: W.2.3,5; W.3.3,5; Language Standards L.2.1, 2, 3; L.3,1,2,3

LIBRARIANS and TEACHERS OF YOUNGER GRADES: Read through Macarooned on a Dessert Island. Ask children to listen for the rhyming words. When they hear a rhyme they should stand up, spin around, and clap three times. Then ask them to repeat the two words that rhymed.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

:Donna November 16, 2014 at 12:09 am

Johnette, this is so beautifully written, it’s almost like a song itself. How precious are your memories of books with your parents. Irreplaceable and life-altering moments. Thanks SO much for sharing 🙂


Kelly Young-Silverman November 17, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Lovely, Johnette! Thank you for sharing!


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