Why Picture Books Are Important by Jennifer Gray Olson

by Dianne on November 22, 2015

Jennifer Gray Olson book cover

Why Picture Books Are Important by Jennifer Gray Olson
There are countless reasons why picture books are essential. Reasons ranging from their role in the development of early literacy skills to the bond that is shared between parent and child during lap time reading. For many children picture books are the first form of art that they will experience. Numerous studies have shown that a child’s early exposure to reading makes them more likely to succeed at every level of their education.

All that being said, the only thing that I can speak to with any certainty is the importance that picture books have played in my life. To me, picture books are everything. I have giggled at their absurdity, made lifelong friendships with their characters, and been brought to tears by how simply and poetically they can encapsulate the most complex of emotional narratives. They are tied to most major life experiences that I’ve had, as well as ones I could only hope to have. The way that some people assign certain songs to memories, I assign books. Seuss, Sendak and Silverstein are the background music to my childhood movie reel.

Growing up, Dr. Seuss was my hero. My first memories of reading (some of my first memories entirely) were of his books. Where some may have found just an entertaining rhyme, I found songs. The ones that get stuck in your head. The kind you can’t shake.

“I’m Yertle the Turtle!
Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler
of all that I see!”

See? Now it’s stuck in your head too.

Where some only saw an elephant and an egg, I found integrity. When you make a commitment to something, you see it through.

“I meant what I said
and I said what I meant…
An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent.”

Always keep your word.

A book that maybe to some was just quirky story about an anal retentive woodland creature, was to me, a commentary on the environment and our treatment of it.

“I am the Lorax.
I speak for the trees.
I speak for the trees,
for the trees have no tongues.”

The Lorax, of all the Seuss books has probably stuck with me the most.

I recall a few years back, exiting the freeway near my house and seeing the that the most beautiful grove of orange trees in town had been destroyed. Steam was still rising off the piles of what was left. I gave an audible gasp and then began to tear up. My son (5 at the time), also disturbed by the scene, asked what had happened to the trees. Without hesitation I said “The Once-ler”. And he got it.

Jennifer Gray Olson headshot

About Jennifer Gray Olson
Jennifer Gray Olson is the author and illustrator of Ninja Bunny and the upcoming Ninja Bunny: Bunny vs. Bunny. She grew up in sunny Southern California where she spent most of her time indoors, drawing imaginary worlds and the characters who inhabited them. Not much has changed. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three children and still draws every day. But she tries to go outside more…
To view her daily ramblings visit her on Twitter at @jgrayolson.

Literacy Activity
Nov 22 ~ Bunnies

“Visuals in the illustrations build skills for determining meaning through context.” (from the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Book Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013).

Bunnies are so cute and fuzzy. But looks can be deceiving. Maybe the bunny is a superhero. Or maybe the bunny has a bad temper. Or maybe the bunny is really a gorilla in disguise! Whatever it is, write a story about a bunny who is more than meets the eye.

Suggested reading:
Ninja Bunny by Jennifer Gray Olson
Bunnies!!! by Kevan Atteberry
I Am A Bunny by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry
Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah O’Hora
Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear by Monica Carnesi
Bear and Bunny by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand

Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

:Donna November 29, 2015 at 11:47 am

Oh, Jennifer, I just teared up reading about the grove—and the “Onceler” 🙁 Seuss was a genius, to say the least, and his work was my foundation, too, and often shows its face when I’m writing. Love this. Love that your son “got it.” 🙂


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