Why Picture Books Are Important by Doug Cushman

by Dianne on November 16, 2016


Why Picture Books Are Important by Doug Cushman

The first picture book I recall was from the classic Little Golden Book series my mother bought at the Big Bear super market in Ohio. In Scuffy the Tug Boat, the toy boat is let loose in a strong river current to explore the world on his own without the little boy and The Man With the Polka Dot Tie. In one scene, Scuffy sails past women washing clothes on the riverbank, cows standing in the water for a cool drink. Scuffy sails between the legs of one large animal.

That cow terrified me. I feared for Scuffy. What if that cow stepped on him? What if he was gobbled up by that monstrous bovine? I still can’t look at a cow without a tiny shiver of fright crawling up my spine.

That is the power of picture books. One image, one sentence can stay with a child though adolescence and adulthood. Picture books are the first windows a child looks through to see the world beyond her tiny world of family and home. Lessons learned from early picture books last a lifetime.

We writers and illustrators receive letters and emails from adults who have been inspired by our books as children. Some have grown up to be artists and writers because of our books. We have touched their lives directly, profoundly.

Picture books do change lives. They plant seeds of adventure; the adventure of new worlds, the adventure of new people, the adventure of learning. Children are shaped by what they see and read. Like a river’s current carrying a toy boat to the ocean, a picture book carries a child through the adventure of life, revealing signposts to make the journey easier and less mysterious.

Even with those scary cows standing in the water.


About Doug Cushman
Doug Cushman has illustrated over 130 children’s books, thirty he wrote as well. His honors include a Reading Rainbow distinction, New York Times Children’s Best Sellers list, a National Cartoonist’s Society Reuben Award for Book Illustration, a 2007 and 2010 Maryland Blue Crab Award, the 2009 California Young Readers Medal and the 2013 IBBY Award for Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities list. He enjoys cooking, traveling and painting—even designing wine labels for a Burgundy wine maker—in Brittany, France.

Literacy Activity
November 16 – Jungle

“Literature takes us to places 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 ourselves.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013).

Make dioramas of important events from a picture book or a story. Have students pick out their favorite characters. Some can make the setting of the story for the class diorama. Put on display the dioramas in the classroom or in the library. Students present their dioramas in class and why they picked the event as important.

Suggested reading:
Way Up High in a Tall Green Tree by Jan Peck and Valeria Petrone.
Fernando’s Gift by Douglas Keister
Rain Forests by Nancy Levinson and Diane Hearn
Jungle Song by Miriam Moss and Adrienne Kennaway
The Very Noisy Jungle by Kathryn White and Gill Guile

Be sure to download the Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classroom for more engaging ideas and activities to bring picture books into the ELA, Math, Science, and Social Studies curriculum!

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