Why Picture Books Are Important by John Parra

by Dianne on November 15, 2016


Why Picture Books Are Important by John Parra
For a child, a picture book can be a book of many “firsts”. It may be their first introduction to wonderful artwork and images. It can be their first book that promotes: intricate language, words, and storytelling. It often introduces them to diverse characters and far off places, and it opens them up for their first real steps into a bigger and wider world.

When I was young, story time at my house was special to me. Just before heading to bed, my mom would call to my brothers and I to read a book. It was usually an old favorite she would recite out-loud. My mom had a great speaking voice and could always describe the people, environment, and events from the story so well. I equally remember taking trips to my local libraries in Santa Barbara and Goleta, California. I would find numerous picture books with amazing art that held my attention for hours, especially anything by Virginia Lee Burton. There were books on trains and tractors, dinosaurs and dragons, skyscrapers and forests, animals and people. I could be any number of the characters portrayed in those books, living many different adventures before going home.

Through these early books I learned about asking questions and being curious. It is this power of literacy and images that can transform people’s lives, give them hope and empathy, and unlock their potential for actual change. Today as a children’s book illustrator I hope to continue in being a part of that tradition of teaching and inspiring others. I am sure many of us can recall our many “firsts” with picture books, what we loved and remembered about them, and how our eyes were open to this incredible new world of characters, stories and ideas.


About John Parra
John Parra is an award-winning illustrator, designer, teacher, and fine art painter. His children’s books have earned numerous starred reviews and appeared on the Texas Library Association’s 2×2 Reading List. His awards include: The SCBWI Golden Kite Award for illustration, ALA’s Pura Belpré Honor’s Award, The International Latino Book Award for Best Children’s Book Illustrations, The Christophers Award, and many more. John also illustrates for commercial clients including: United Airlines, Hitachi, National Geographic, and PBS. In 2015 John was invited by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to present a special event about his work and career in art and illustration. John lives with his wife Maria in Queens, NY.

Literacy Activity
November 15 – Travel

“Picture books lend themselves nicely to technical writing assignments, including but not limited to letters to authors or illustrators, book reviews, research papers based on a theme found within the story.” (from Picture Book Month Teacher’s Guide: Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms by Marcie Colleen, 2013).

Create a travel guide of your town or city. A group with five students is ideal. Assign roles to students: researchers, content writers, illustrators and designers. Show samples of travel guides to students before they begin the project. Give them enough time to research and plan what to put in their travel guide, what it is for, the contents to put in the guide, its design, the materials they need to finish the guide. Give students a workable deadline for this project. Team teach with the librarian or a co-teacher. Use resources in the public library or interview members of the community to help students make the travel guide.

Suggested reading:
Paddington by Michael Bond, illustrated by R. W. Alley
Where the wild things are by Maurice Sendak
Oh, the places you’ll go by Dr Seuss
Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
Madeline in London by Ludwig Bemelmans

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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