Why Picture Books Are Important by Alexandra Penfold
Picture books are important because they teach people to be readers and teach readers to be people. Even before they know the words and even before they can make sounds, children can “read” pictures and piece together stories. Picture books are the union of art and language. Picture books are meant to be read aloud. There’s a special sort of theater to them and a magic that happens with the turn of a page.
As a kid I loved picture books for, well, the pictures. I could spend hours poring over the illustrations looking for hidden secrets in the art. As I grew and became confident with reading, I learned to love the text, as well, memorizing my favorite refrains so I could recite them along with my parents, delighting in the shared experience. These days my delight is in reading to my children, seeing what lines make them laugh out loud, watching them react as a page turn reveals a big plot twist and sends the story spinning into an entirely different direction, marveling as they make connections between the books we read and life in the world around them.
There are so many different ways that picture books shape the worlds of their readers. Picture books are mirrors. Picture books are windows. Picture books are time machines. Picture books are portals to universes beyond our own.
Picture books are empowering. Picture books can give comfort and reassurance and picture books can expand our horizons. They remind us of a place where someone loves us “best of all” and where no matter how far we roam our dinner will still be hot.
About Alexandra Penfold
Alexandra Penfold has been working in publishing for over a decade as a children’s book editor and as an agent. She’s the co-author of New York a la Cart: Recipes and Stories from the Big Apple’s Best Food Trucks. She is the author of the forthcoming, We Are Brothers, We Are Friends, illustrated by Eda Kaban. Eat, Sleep, Poop, illustrated by Jane Massey is her picture book debut. Alexandra lives with her family in New York, where she is most likely to be found reading, writing, drinking coffee and/or baking pie.
Head shot photo (credit Donny Tsang).
November 19 – Babies/Kids
“Picture books help students visualize what they are reading and make sense of the content which is a big component in spatial learning and problem solving.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013).
Bring pictures in class that show you as a baby, a kid, a teenager and an adult. Talk about memories of your childhood. Put the photos in order showing your growth as a person. Discuss the many changes that happened to you growing up. Ask students to bring two or three pictures of themselves for a growth chart activity and a book project that they will do in class.
Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classroom for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum!