Why Picture Books Are Important by Minh Le

by Dianne on November 10, 2016


Why Picture Books Are Important by Minh Le
With infinite possibilities between the covers of a picture book, one aspect that makes them particularly powerful is their ability to bring different ages together. And I mean this in two ways.

The first is that a picture book can be experienced by people of any age. Babies being read to, children learning to read on their own, and adults reading for their own pleasure or to a child, the accessibility of the picture book gives it the broadest possible range within the literary world.

The second meaning is related but perhaps less obvious—picture books can bring ages together within the same individual. Imagine those people I mentioned in the previous paragraph but as the same person at different points in their lives.

I have very visceral childhood memories of A Chair for My Mother. Every time I revisit it, I read it with slightly new eyes.  For example, as a kid I don’t think I ever really noticed the mother’s tired posture at the end of a long day, but now as a parent, I can feel the heaviness in her bones. Maybe, with luck, someday I’ll see myself in the grandmother’s impish smile. Point being that picture books have the power to create an artistic through line—providing the unique gift of allowing an individual to gauge themselves against the same work of art over a lifetime.

Which makes me wonder: which books will my children return to? Will it be a classic that I’ve shared from my childhood like A Chair for My Mother or Harold and the Purple Crayon? Or a new classic like Last Stop on Market Street or The Adventures of Beekle?

I can’t know for sure, but I do know one thing: they’ll have plenty of powerful books to choose from.


About Minh Lê
Minh Lê is the author of Let Me Finish!, illustrated by Isabel Roxas (Disney-Hyperion). He blogs about children’s literature at Bottom Shelf Books and as a member of the kidlit consortium The Niblings. Minh has also written for a variety of publications, including the New York Times, the Horn Book, and the Huffington Post. Outside of spending time with his beautiful wife and sons, his favorite place to be is in the middle of a good book. You can find him on his website minhlebooks.com or on Twitter @bottomshelfbks.

Literacy Activity
November 10 – Dinosaurs

“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).

During read aloud sessions, ask questions that will prompt students to infer, to predict, to wonder and to imagine. Read the story ahead of time and mark events or changes in the plot and character that allows for critical and creative thinking. Pay attention to the illustrations because the text is often enriched by it. A picture book’s art is a rich visual narrative that holds many treasures to discover and unlock.

Suggested reading:
Dinosaurs Roar, Butterflies Soar! by Bob Barner
Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs by Byron Barton
Oh, My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs! by Sandra Boynton
If the Dinosaurs Came Back by Bernard Most
Dino Pets by Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Gideon Kendall

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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