Why Picture Books Are Important by Loren Long

by Dianne on November 20, 2015

Loren Long book cover

Why Picture Books Are Important by Loren Long
Speaking about my children’s book work is always rewarding. But I’ll never forget one particular occasion. I arrived early. Somebody showed me to a comfortable room with 150 chairs and a screen in front. We set up my Powerpoint and the room began to fill. Not an empty seat in the house.

As I was introduced I looked down at smiling faces and bright eyes, so eager to hear everything I would say, so enthusiastic and… alive. I started my talk by asking them all to close their eyes and think of their favorite book when they were little. I asked them to raise their hands when they had a mental picture of that book. Every hand went up. Then I asked how many of them could remember who it was in their life that read that book to them. Again, every hand went up. I asked them if they could recall the feeling, the voice, the place of that experience. Warm smiles spread through the room and again, every hand went up. The youngest person in the room that day was a 73-year-old woman and the oldest was a 97-year-old man. I was speaking at a nursing home. And it was one of the most soulfully fulfilling events of my career. They clapped, they laughed, they giggled, they oohed and awed at my art on the screen, they asked questions, and answered mine. And some of them shared their favorite book and who it was that read it to them three quarters of a century ago.

The picture book experience is a safe harbor for children. There is no other shared experience between two human beings quite like it. Will it last a lifetime? Ask a 90 year old. I remember my mother reading picture books to me… how it felt, the warm sound of her voice and her laugh. My sons are pretty much grown up now. What I would give to put them on my lap again and read them a picture book. Just one more book, boys. Please, just one more.

Loren Long headshot

About Loren Long
Loren Long is the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling picture books Otis, Otis and the Tornado, Otis and the Puppy, An Otis Christmas and Otis and the Scarecrow. He is the #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator of President Barack Obama’s picture book Of Thee I Sing, the re-illustrated edition of The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper, and Mr.Peabody’s Apples by Madonna. Loren’s most recent work, Little Tree, is a picture book for all ages which published in October of 2015. To learn more, please visit LorenLong.com and OtisTheTractor.com.

Literacy Activity
Nov 20 ~ Transportation

“Picture books offer a narrative and humanization to several scientific concepts.” (from the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Book Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013).

Randomly place your finger on the world globe. Wherever your finger lands is where you will take a vacation. Where is it located? How far away is it? How will you get there? Create a vacation itinerary to get you from here to there.

Suggested reading:
Otis by Loren Long
Backhoe Joe by Lori Alexander, illustrated by Craig Cameron
Supertruck by Stephen Savage
Locomotive by Brian Floca
Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman
Subway Story by Julia Sarcone-Roach

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!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

C.L. Murphy November 20, 2015 at 12:02 pm

I absolutely love that your visit was most fulfilling. What a captive audience they must have been as you transported them back in time! Thanks for sharing such a special event, Loren.


:Donna November 20, 2015 at 10:58 pm

Loren, I’m not 73 or 97—-yet, but memories of picture books are so vivid to me—cherished. You brought me nearly to tears—happy tears. This is so beautiful and poignant. Thank you!

P.S. I LOVE Otis 😀


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