Why Picture Books Are Important by Laura Rennert

by Dianne on November 12, 2017


Why Picture Books Are Important by Laura Rennert

I can trace my life in picture books.

From childhood; to reading to my little sister and brother; to a picture book I brought to college; to a German picture book that moved me even as I stumbled over the words; to a picture book that buoyed me in times of great sorrow; to sharing a beloved picture book with my own daughter and seeing her delight; to discovering the picture book I sold as an agent clasped in the hands of a child; to seeing a tousled boy dinosaur-roar with me as I read a picture book I had written; so many picture books.

Where the Wild Things Are; Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse; Owl Moon; Your Alien; Always Remember; Jorinda und Joringle; If I had a Little Dream; Olivia; Skippy Jon Jones; Strictly No Elephants …

Picture books awaken the imagination. They encourage our capacity for empathy. They lay down the building blocks not just for reading, but for parsing our experience – for creating stories that give life meaning. They invite curiosity and active engagement with the world. They begin to give us an emotional vocabulary for understanding the many facets of the self, at the same time that they evoke a shared experience and help us understand that we are not alone.

Picture books are a child’s first experience of the joys of reading and art – so fundamental to the way we as humans are wired and a part of the way we come to an understanding of who we are.

It feels to me that they are more important than ever. In our increasingly busy modern life, they are a precious social transaction. One of the most essential gifts of the picture book is the way it creates an intimate, active bond between listener and reader.

To me, picture books are a moment, a journey, a promise.

A life in words and pictures.

About Laura Rennert
Laura Rennert has been with the Andrea Brown Literary Agency since 1998. She specializes in all categories of children’s books, from picture books to YA, as well as literary-commercial fiction, thrillers, and psychological suspense/horror on the adult side. 

Laura’s work as an agent is enhanced by her familiarity with what it’s like on the author’s side of the table. She’s the author of a picture book, BUYING, TRAINING, AND CARING FOR YOUR DINOSAUR (Knopf/PRH), illustrated by Marc Brown, creator of Arthur; and of an illustrated chapter book, ROYAL PRINCESS ACADEMY: DRAGON DREAMS, illustrated by Melanie Florian (Dial/PRH). ?

Literacy Activity
November 12 – Books

“Picture books are wonderful tools for teaching story, key ideas, and details,
because of their simple linear plot lines and setting, with a highly few developed characters.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Make books! Team up students in pairs. One writes the story while the other illustrates. They can also begin by brainstorming ideas to write about and plan together for the book project. Provide steps and guides in the writing process and in the creation of the book. Handouts and worksheets can help as well as Learning Centers: brainstorming center, writing center (draft, feedback, revision and editing), publishing center. Have the book creators read their books aloud. Collect the student made books and add them up in your classroom library. After one academic year, consider donating the books to the school library.

Suggested readings
How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnette, illustrated by Adam Rex
I Am A Story by Dan Yaccarino
This Is My Book! by Mark Pett (and no one else)
Parsley Rabbit’s Book about Books by Frances Watts and David Legge
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

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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