Why Picture Books Are Important by Ruth Sanderson

by Dianne on November 18, 2017


Why Picture Books Important by Ruth Sanderson

Reading books with a young child deepens the parent/child bond in a shared routine, often at a special time each day, and this very act can build the foundation for a lifelong love of reading. Picture books contribute to visual literacy as well as early literacy, as conversations about the pictures in a book teach young children how to “read” pictures, ask and answer questions about the pictures and how they relate to the story.

Picture books can be windows into other worlds and other cultures. Picture books can entertain, surprise, and delight young listener/viewers. They inspire a child’s own imagination. A certain book might instill a deep sense of wonder in a child, and expand the child’s known horizons. Other books are mirrors of the child’s own experiences, and the child can relate to the struggle of the character in the story and see how that child solved his/her own problem.

Stories entertain, of course, but also help a child begin to navigate the dangerous waters of our human existence—our frailties, fears, and failures. Fairy tales are especially helpful in this task, as the villains are not real-life scary, but fairy-tale scary. The hero or heroine face impossible tasks, yet persevere, and prevail. One of my favorite books growing up was a Little Golden Book illustrated by Gustaf Tenngren —The Golden Goose. I went on to devour the complete illustrated Grimm’s Fairy Tale collection that belonged to my father. I am sure my early exposure to fairy tales and fairy tale illustrations led to my lifelong love of the genre. Longer picture book stories, both non-fiction and fiction (such as fairy tales), present more complex worlds and ideas, continue to enchant and inform older children, and contribute to visual literacy at a more sophisticated level.


About Ruth Sanderson

Ruth Sanderson’s children’s book career spans 40 years, with over 85 books for children, including illustrated fairy tale retellings such as The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Cinderella, Goldilocks, and Papa Gatto. Her illustrated version of The Golden Key, a Victorian fairy tale by George MacDonald, features over forty scratchboard illustrations. A Castle Full of Cats is her first humorous book in rhyme. Ruth is the co-director of the MFA in Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating offered during summer terms at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. She lives the rest of the year with her family in Massachusetts. Her website is www.ruthsanderson.com.

Literacy Activity
November 18 – Cats

“Literature takes us to places where we cannot go when inside a classroom, and additionally, through the use of illustrations and photographs picture books can show us places we are unable to go to ourseleves.” from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

Play a game of Fact and Fiction. Read out loud fictional and factual information about cats. If the statement is fiction, students stay where they are. If it is factual, they step forward until all statements are given. Students who reach the finish line are the winners of the game.

Suggested reading
My Cat Jack by Patricia Casey
Max the Brave by Ed Vere
Gracie, the Lighthouse Cat by Ruth Brown
Keith the Cat with the Magic Hat by Sue Hendra
The Beckoning Cat by Koko Nishizuka and illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger

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.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cassandra Gelvin November 18, 2017 at 11:19 am

I like the idea of visual literacy. I hadn’t heard that phrase before.

Since your theme today is cats, I feel compelled to mention my Kickstarter, which is for a board book about cats. “Kitties Are Not Good to Eat” is a Kickstarter running until 12/29/2017. You can see it at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dont-eat-kitties/kitties-are-not-good-to-eat?utm_source=pbm

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