Why Picture Books Are Important by Erzsi Deak

by Dianne on November 22, 2016

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Why Pictures Book Are Important by Erzsi Deak
Picture books are often the first taste (literally! Think of how many children eat their books…) of Story and of the relationship between image and text. Course, a child is not intellectualizing this concept, but is instead reveling in the idea of story; of the voyage taken; of the comfort of reading, usually, with a loved one. Later, as the child grows more autonomous, she will hold the book and pretend to read (the fact that this is often done upside down is of no import! It is the belief that she is reading that counts! It is the beginning Story of a reader!).

Picture books also form the groundwork for visual literacy. For this reason, we must make beautiful picture books! It is a huge responsibility! Picture books are also the groundwork for understanding innately how Story works, as the reader anxiously turns the page to see WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. It allows the child to figure out how he could respond to a situation in his life. And, finally, the picture book is a gorgeous form of good ol’ entertainment. The beauty of the book is that one can go back to it again and again and feel it and smell it and remember the first time one read it, even 30 years later.
Growing up in Los Angeles, CA, in a book-friendly world, we had many books around. I remember when I gave a presentation at Los Feliz Elementary School. Always shy, I chose to read Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are to my class. As a new reader, I practiced and practiced how to say COMFORTABLE (COME-FOR-TABLE) and gloried in this small victory. Many books make up my childhood library. Bread and Jam for Frances always makes me think about when Tommy, my youngest brother, would eat nothing but peanut butter and my parents, like Francis’ parents, gave him the one thing he always wanted to eat to the point that two-year-old Tommy cried, “You’ve ruined peanut butter for me!”

So we come back to taste! With so many picture books to taste and choose from, each and every child should (and I rarely use the word SHOULD seriously) have access to picture books – heck, every adult should! Picture books are important because they make the world taste better and give each and every reader a fulfilling diet of love of words and pictures while entertaining and allowing each reader to bring her own story to the story and to voyage with the characters together. And if they are lucky, starting in the lap of a loved one. I applaud organizations that give tasty picture books to newborns and their families – what a fabulous journey they are all embarking upon (teeth marks and all)!

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About Erzsi Deak

Erzsi Deak is an author, editor, and founder of Hen&ink Literary. Her picture book, Pumpkin Time! (illustrated by Doug Cushman; Sourcebooks/Scholastic Clubs), celebrates mindfulness, a gardening year – and pumpkin pie. Period Pieces (co-edited Kristin Embry, HarperCollins) was a Bank Street pick; she is thrilled girls and their families can read this collection of terrific stories by award-winning authors in the forthcoming MAB Media edition, Between You & Me: Tales & Truth About Your First Period. She is a two-time SCBWI Member of the Year and serves on the KidsGardening Educator Advisory Panel. Erzsi splits her time between the South of France and California.

Literacy Activity
November 22 – Pumpkin/Fall

“Children are born scientists; and picture books, like Science, are about the spirit of curiosity and exploration.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013).

Choose drawings and illustrations from a picture book and compare it with actual photos of similar places or events. For example, an illustrated page of a tree in autumn against a photograph of a tree in the same season would elicit points for discussion on similarities and differences of art works. Discuss further the many ways in which artists render their subjects. Some use watercolors, collage, pencils, crayons, mixed media and digital tools. End the activity by offering students an array of art materials to use in making their Tree in Autumn art piece.

Suggested reading:
When the Wind Stops by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Stefano Vitale
Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert
Fall Is Not Easy by Marty Kelley
Autumnblings by Douglas Florian
Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White

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!

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