Why Picture Books Are Important by Paula Yoo

by Dianne on November 23, 2015

Paula Yoo book cover

Why Picture Books Are Important by Paula Yoo
When I’m not writing books, I’m a TV producer who writes screenplays. What I write on the scripted page is later interpreted by the director, the actors, and the crew (props, makeup/hair, special effects, wardrobe, lighting etc.).

When I started writing picture books, I realized the picture book writer’s job was very similar to a screenwriter. We create visceral and emotional stories to inspire the illustrator to create the perfect art to enhance the storyline.

But I also discovered there is a big difference between picture books and the visual medium of TV and movies. Given the rise of technology and ever-present handheld devices such as smart phones and tablets, our children have become even savvier about visual storytelling. They’re used to state-of-the-art computerized animation, dazzling special effects and clever software apps.

This is why picture books are even more important today because they provide an opportunity for children to focus purely on the STORY ITSELF. By focusing solely on the words and images on the page, children must use their OWN imagination to interpret the story. When a movie-goer or TV viewer sits in a chair and passively watches the screen, they are letting the screenwriter, director, actors, and crew interpret the story for them.

But the picture book reader becomes ACTIVELY INVOLVED in reading the story. The child must use his or her imagination in order to interpret the words and artwork. By using their imagination, the reader now lives in this fictional world and has joined the characters on their dramatic journey.

And there’s nothing more exciting – or rewarding – than that. Sure, picture books may seem “old fashioned” in today’s iWorld, but at the end of the day, picture books trump technology, thanks to their ability to capture a child’s imagination and wonder.

Paula Yoo headshot

About Paula Yoo
Paula Yoo is a children’s book author and TV producer. Her latest picture book, the Junior Library Guild Selection Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank (illustrated by Jamel Akib, Lee & Low Books 2014) won the 2015 South Asia Book Award. Her other books include the YA novel Good Enough (HarperCollins ’08) and IRA Notable picture books Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story and Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story from Lee & Low Books. As a TV producer, Paula has written for many shows, from NBC’s “The West Wing” to SyFy’s “Defiance.” Visit Paula at paulayoo.com.

Literacy Activity
Nov 23 ~ Biographies

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

Create a Classrooms library of picture book biographies. Then, using the biographies as a mentor text, have students write and illustrate a biography about someone special in their own lives.

Suggested reading:
Twenty-two Cents: Muhammed Yunus and the Village Bank by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Jamel Akib
Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu
For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story by Rebecca Langston-George, illustrated by Janna Bock
The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

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 }

:Donna November 29, 2015 at 11:55 am

Paula, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to hear someone who does what you do who believes the printed picture book trumps technology! I have and always will feel that way. Thank you for stating it so well 😀


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