Why Picture Books Are Important by Julie Segal Walters

by Dianne on November 9, 2017


Why Picture Books Are Important by Julie Segal-Walters

Picture books are important because they expose children to empathy.

While picture books are frequently a child’s first exposure to language, literature, and art, they are also often a child’s first window into the experiences and emotions of others. Whether it’s nonfiction picture books that share histories of human struggles, or fiction stories that illustrate — through both words and art — the needs, motivations, and feelings of the characters, or concept books that directly teach compassion and understanding, picture books invite children to appreciate and share the emotions of someone other than themselves.

The act of reading a picture book out loud to a child also builds empathy, and creates an empathic relationship between the child and the reader. As anyone who has cuddled together and read a book to a child knows, the sensitivity to each other’s experience, and the opportunity to interact through inquiry or discussion are always present when an adult reads a book aloud to a child. Children also detect emotion through the rising and falling of the reader’s voice, or the speed and passion in the storyteller’s tone. Through the act of reading exclamations or questions aloud, children become aware of verbal clues that help them understand and experience other’s excitement or confusion.

Further, by design, picture books are uniquely able to communicate with children visually through the art. Picture book illustrations enable children to interpret for themselves what they may not yet fully comprehend through words alone. Children may see and understand pictures of facial expressions and other visual clues to a character’s state of mind, circumstances, or environment in a way that is more accessible and less threatening than words alone.

Now especially, picture books are important because the world needs more empathetic, understanding, and tolerant children.


About Julie Segal-Walters

Julie Segal-Walters lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and pesky cat, and is the author of This Is Not A Normal Animal Book (illustrated by Brian Biggs) (Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books). Before writing for children, Julie was a lawyer and advocate for civil rights and civil liberties. She can now be found advocating for her many favorite children’s books to anyone who will listen. Visit Julie online at www.juliesegalwalters.com or on Facebook, Twitter @j_s_dub, or Instagram @juliesegalwalters.

Literacy Activity
November 9 – Animals

“Picture books help students develop empathy.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Talk about the many ways people care for animals. Pets. Farm animals. Even animals in zoos. Bring pets to school and create a “pet profile” for show-and-tell. Upload photos of pets and favorite farm animals in the class blog or social media account. Use hashtags that show care and empathy for feathered, furry, slimy and scaly animal friends!

Suggested reading
Slow Down for Manatees by Jim Arnosky
Turtle Girl by Carole Crowe
The Pet Shop Revolution by Ana Juan
Saving Audie: A Pit Bull Puppy Gets a Second Chance by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
Arrowhawk by Lola M. Schaefer

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.

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