Why Picture Books Are Important by Emma Otheguy

by Dianne on November 28, 2017

Why Picture Books Are Imporatnt by Emma Otheguy

My parents like to complain that when I was a child, I was always hiding behind thick bangs and a book, using the book to shield myself from the world. I love that picture books are large enough to hide a child, to protect them from everything outside and take them to inner worlds known only to them. At the same time, I know as a writer, an aunt, and a teacher that picture books are meant to be shared. Picture books fit across two laps, and their size projects to a classroom as much as it hides a reader.

That’s the essence of a picture book to me: the brokering of the inner and the outer. Picture books tell adults about children’s secret lives, and they bring the universe to children’s libraries and classrooms. Picture books display always two pages at once, and in that two-page spread, there’s space for two readers, and in many cases, for two languages. There’s space to hold bilingualism and everything it entails: two generations, and the stories one can share with the next.

Picture books are first friends and great teachers—two of the things that have been most precious in my own life, and two things I hope grace the lives of every kid today.

About Emma Otheguy
Emma Otheguy is a children’s book author and a historian of Spain and colonial Latin America. Her picture book debut, Martí’s Song for Freedom, has received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, and Publishers Weekly. She is a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, and her short story “Fairies in Town” was awarded a Magazine Merit Honor by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Otheguy lives with her husband in New York City.

Literacy Activity
November 28 – Freedom

“Picture books place a human face to historical, political, environmental, and cultural events.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013)

What are the symbols of freedom? What does it mean? Assign students to compile symbols of freedom from different sources. It can be a picture, a real object, even a person’s true to life account. Put these on display with each object or photo and story a note or annotation. Create a freedom wall where students write their definition of what freedom.

Suggested reading
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Summer
by Deborah Wiles
Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood
Freedom School, Yes! by Amy Littlesugar

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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