Why Picture Books Are Important by Sandra Markle

by Dianne on November 17, 2014

Sandra Markle book cover

Why Picture Books Are Important by Sandra Markle
Picture books are the perfect way for people to share time together. No other book is quite like it for reading aloud and for feeling like you’re in the story or real-life adventure. I remember sitting on my mother’s lap for a hug and a story as I turned the pages of a picture book and she read over my shoulder. You could say picture books are generational because I did that with my children too. I’ll never forget having the flu and my son Scott, bringing The Berenstain’s Bears in the Night to share and make me feel better. He was too young to really read but we’d poured over that book so many times he did a very good job reciting it to me, pointing out each picture. After my daughter Holly was born, we explored favorite picture books all over again. And now I’m getting to discover favorite picture books yet again reading with my grandchildren. It speaks volumes that lines from some picture books have become family sayings. For example, “For rabbits you see aren’t affected by fame, No matter what happens they’re always the same.” (Bill Peet’s Huge Harold). “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?” (Bill Martin Jr.’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See?) And “You don’t need words or warm or anything but hope.” (Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon).

As an author, there’s something truly special about writing picture books. For me, it’s telling stories to children just the way I did with my own family only from my mind to the pages they read. And, as I write, I read the text over and over out loud to hear and shape the text until it’s just right—a word picture. I want adults who’ll share my book with children to be able to bring the picture book to life as they read aloud. I always tell children when I visit schools and libraries, “When you read my books, I’ll be there with you. We’ll share the story together.” Picture books are that unique kind of communication that makes this promise true.

Sandra Markle

About Sandra Markle
Sandra Markle is the author of more than 200 non-fiction books for children. Her work has won numerous awards, including the 2012 Prize for Excellence in Science Books by The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2013 School Library Journal’s Best Children’s Books of the Year List, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices, NSTA Outstanding Science Tradebook, Green Earth Book Awards, Cybils Finalist, John Burroughs List of Nature Books for Young Readers, Junior Library Guild Selection, Orbis Pictus Recommended Book, Charlotte Zolotow Award, and many more.

In addition to her books, Sandra Markle has developed science specials for CNN and PBS and Internet-based science education programs for Scholastic and the National Science Foundation. She was selected twice by NSF to travel to Antarctica with the Artists & Writers Program and provided some of the first live chats with schools from this remote location.

Picture Book Month Daily Theme: Forest

Curriculum Connections

After reading What if You Had Animal Hair!? guide children in their own exploration of “what if?”
To start, pass around pens and cards to everyone in the circle. Tell everyone to write a question that begins with “What if…” at the top of the card. For example, “What if people had platypus beaks instead of lips?”

These questions can be serious or silly. The goal is to be creative and have a sense of wonder.

Then collect all of the cards, shuffle them up, and deal them back out to everyone randomly. If someone gets their own card by chance, you can let them switch for another one.

Once everyone has a card with a question that they didn’t write, tell everyone to then write a narrative to answer the question, starting with the word “Then…” Lastly, the person who writes the answer must also illustrate it.

The goal here is for imaginative play, not necessarily fact-based information. Although older students could add research to give more scientific answers.

Correlates to the Common Core Writing standards: W.3.3; W.4.3; W.5.3

LIBRARIANS and TEACHERS OF YOUNGER GRADES: As a group, come up with a list of funny “what if’s”. For example, “what if we had platypus beaks instead of lips?”, “what if we had sticky tongues like frogs and ate flies?”, and “what if we had horns on our heads like a rhino?” Once a list is created, have the children illustrate what a person with all of these crazy attributes would look like!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

:Donna November 17, 2014 at 12:07 am

Sandra, there really is nothing like the familiarity and comfort of a good picture book. Your son “got” that when he was young, bringing it to you to comfort you. That is just SO precious and couldn’t have happened any other way 🙂 Thanks for sharing!


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