Why Picture Books Are Important by Kimberly Willis Holt

by Dianne on November 11, 2017


Why Picture Books are Important by Kimberly Willis Holt

When I was six years old, I met a crocodile named Lyle. He lived within the pages of the picture book, The House on East 88th Street by Bernard Waber. The tale began, “This is the house. The house on East 88th Street. It is empty now, but it won’t be for long.”

Here was a story I could relate to—a family moving to a different home. By the time I’d discovered the book, I’d moved five times and lived in three cities. Even the story’s added surprise of the Primm family finding a crocodile in their new home’s bathtub seemed familiar. Unpacking boxes meant I’d soon be meeting strangers and relearning to navigate, never knowing what was around the corner.

In The House on East 88th Street, Waber’s illustrations support the adventures of what it was like for everything to be new. I’d never been to New York City, but the images of Lyle at the park or riding and strolling down the busy streets with the Primm family, were not unlike my family exploring our fresh surroundings. Lyle spinning a ball on his nose and walking on his front legs, ultimately winning the hearts of the Primm’s reflected my own attempts to make friends. To me, this story offered comfort in its familiarity. Lyle’s family was like mine.

And that is one glorious thing that any good book does. It may introduce new worlds to us, but we usually embrace the story because of commonalities. We are not alone. We are more alike than we are different. Isn’t it wonderful that we don’t have to wait until we’re old enough to read chapter books and novels to realize this?

About Kimberly Willis Holt
Kimberly Willis Holt was born into a military family and moved every few years during her childhood. That and her southern roots remain two of the biggest influences on her work. In 1994, she started writing with a pen and yellow pad. She continues to write longhand today. Her books have garnered many awards, including the National Book Award for her third book When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. Growing up, she didn’t have a crocodile, but did have dogs, cats, a rabbit and a turtle. She lives with her husband in Texas.

Literacy Activity
November 11 – Dogs

“Picture books are technically and specifically crafted.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Use picture books as a spring broad for a writing activity. Focus on the theme of a picture book. Create a word web on Dogs. Combine ideas generated from the word web into clear sentences. Look at connections between ideas and sentences that can be put together as one paragraph. You can show this process one step at a time with your students. Or, you can also set a writing center in the classromm that has clear instructions on writing sentences and developing them into a paragraph.

Suggested reading
Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill
Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Birdwell
Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey
Just Me and My Puppy by Mercer Meyer

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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