Why Picture Books Are Important by Kwame Alexander

by Dianne on November 25, 2016

Why Picture Books Are Important by Kwame Alexander

They’re as important as cars. They help us get from one place to another, from not knowing, to knowing. From impossible to possible. Picture books are the great experience equalizer. We don’t have to leave the comforts of the beds in the rooms of our houses, and yet we can still travel through time and place and circumstance. If a book is a world, then the pages are windows to look out onto that world. We can truly see, and sometimes dream, a world from each page. And, we can do it as soon as we hit the earth. What a great way to start life, right?

I also believe that picture books are as important as clothes. They keep kids cool and warm and comfortable as they face the woes and wonders of our world. My favorite picture books as a child were, Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss, Abby by Jeanette Caines, and Spin a Soft Black Song by Nikki Giovanni. Dr. Seuss gave me the words to speak up for myself in Kindergarten (Pure hilarity, but I was no pushover). Nikki Giovanni wrote a poem called “Come Nataki Dance With Me,” and I begged my mom to name my new sister, Nataki. She did. And, Abby, about the relationship between a boy and his adopted sister, helped me learn to actually LIKE my new sister. Books are powerful. They can change the world.

Finally, I like to think that picture books are mirrors. They help us find ourselves. Know ourselves. There’s this picture book that my parents used to read to me called And the Sun God Said That’s Hip. It was written by a poet named Ernest Gregg. The story is told in rhythmic verse. It’s a really powerful poem that I must have read a thousand times growing up. Hmmm, I wonder if that book had anything to do with my career choice…

About Kwame Alexander
Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times Bestselling author of 21 books, including THE CROSSOVER, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American literature for Children, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, and the Pasaic Poetry Prize. Kwame writes for children of all ages. His other works include SURF’S UP, a picture book; BOOKED, a middle grade novel; and He Said She Said, a YA novel.

Kwame believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his PAGE TO STAGE Writing and Publishing Program released by Scholastic. A regular speaker at schools and conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love: Singapore, Brazil, Italy, France, Shanghai, and recently, Alexander led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded. In 2015, Kwame served as Bank Street College of Education’s Inaugural Dorothy M. Carter writer-in- residence. The Kwame Alexander Papers, a collection of his writings, correspondence, and other professional and personal documents is held at the George Washington University Gelman Library. Visit him at KwameAlexander.com.

Literacy Activity
November 25 – Farm

“Picture books allow students to have vicarious experiences through characters that are not like them.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013).

Create your own television or book trailer to get others to read your favorite picture book about farm animals.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, pictures by Doreen Cronin
Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown,pictures by Felicia Bond
Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton
How Big Is a Pig? by Claire Beaton
Sally Goes to the Farmby Stephen Huneck

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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