Why Picture Books Are Important by Donna Janell Bowman

by Dianne on November 13, 2017


Why Picture Books Are Important by Donna Janell Bowman

As I was thinking about why picture books are important, I was tempted to reach for the studies that prove how reading picture books to a child plants the seed for lifelong reading, nurtures a sense of empathy and appreciation for otherness, and offers bite-sized views of the world. Or how picture books are an introduction to the symbiotic art of words and pictures. Or how picture books are read-aloud magic that can spark imaginations and conversations. Then a memory of my kids’ voices flashed through my mind: “Read it again, Mommy. Again and again.”

For both of my sons—ten years apart in age— I began reading to them while they were in utero, then every single day until they were old enough to read to me. I miss those days in the rocking chair or squished so closely into a twin bed that we seemed to share one pulse—heartbeats forever etched in time.

Like many parents, I have memento boxes for each of my kids that I hope they enjoy unpacking when they have their own families. Each is stuffed with their cutest childhood creations, locks of hair, scribbly writings, keepsakes. And something else, too—their favorite picture books. Interesting, that!
Surely, my reasons for hanging on to these stories (that even I had memorized) are selfishly nostalgic, right? Other than a few recordings of us reading together, time has likely blurred my kids’ memories of our nightly reading rituals. Or, maybe not. Recently, I helped my macho teenager update his bedroom, including culling his bookshelves. As the “Keep” stack dwindled and the “Give” stack grew, we came to a once-beloved, now worn picture book tucked into the very back of his shelf as if reaching back in time.

“Keep,” he said.

I suppose that sums it up, doesn’t it? Picture books never really leave us.

About Donna Janell Bowman
Donna Janell Bowman is the author of many books for young readers, including the award-winning picture book biography STEP RIGHT UP: HOW DOC AND JIM KEY TAUGHT THE WORLD ABOUT KINDNESS (Lee and Low, October 2016). Two additional picture book biographies are forthcoming: EN GARDE! ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S DUELING WORDS (Peachtree, spring 2018), and KING OF THE TIGHTROPE: THE GREAT BLONDIN (Peachtree, spring 2019). Donna has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and enjoys mentoring and teaching writers of all ages. She lives near Austin, Texas and is represented by Erin Murphy—Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Literacy Activity
November 13 – Kindness

“Picture books teach the universality of many experiences.”(from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

As a class create a collage about kindness. Use the available art materials and as varied as possible: markers, crayons, colored pens and pencils, different kinds of paper, magazine and newspaper cutouts, felt cloth, clay and even recycled materials.

Suggested reading
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed by Emily Pearson and Fumi Kosaka
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
The Three Questions by Jon J Muth
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

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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