Guest Blogger: Rick Walton—Why Picture Books Are Important
“Andthekitty andthekitty andthekitty andthekitty….(*deep breath*) JUMPED!” so exclaimed my two-year-old daughter twenty-odd years ago when I read to her “A Dark Dark Tale” by Ruth Brown while listening to Alan Parsons “Tales of Mystery and Imagination.” I timed it so that the kitty jumped at the same time the music built to a resounding clash, after which my daughter WOULD NOT PUT THE BOOK DOWN and she told everyone about that kitty while clutching that book. This is one of many memorable experiences I’ve had with picture books.
I would like to introduce you to my friend and children’s book author, Rick Walton (link takes you to his page at Amazon.com). Rick is the author of over 60 children’s books, which include poetry, jokes, and, of course, the picture book. Today he wrote a beautiful post on why picture books are important and why they are for everyone. EVERYONE. That includes children, young adults, and yes, even adults. (That’s me! Yay!) When you finish reading his post, please add a comment about your favorite picture book memory. I know you have one.
It is picture book month. And so, I am required by law, as an official author of picture books, to climb on top of my soapbox and explain:
Why Picture Books Are Important,
And Why They Are for Everyone
Picture books are often seen as literary baby food, the stuff we feed children until they have the teeth to eat real food.
I would argue, however, that picture books are not baby food. They are not just for young children.
In fact, I would argue that picture books are perhaps the most important literary format that we have.
Here are 10 reasons why I believe this:
1. They are the first books that children fall in love with, that turn children into lifetime readers. Lifetime readers become lifetime learners. Lifetime learners become lifetime contributors.
2. Picture book language is often more sophisticated than the first chapter books that children read, and therefore an excellent way for children to learn language. It is here that children, and others, can learn vocabulary, imagery, rhythm, shape, structure, conciseness, emotional power.
3. The picture book is the most flexible of all literary formats. You can do almost anything in a picture book. This flexibility encourages creativity, in both writer and reader. It broadens the mind, and the imagination. And given today’s challenges, we desperately need more creativity, broadened minds. Imagination.
4. The picture book, with its interaction between text and illustration , with its appeal that the reader analyze that interaction, helps develop visual intelligence. It helps us look for meaning in the visual. And since most of us are surrounded by, and inundated by visual images our whole lives, visual intelligence is an important skill.
5. Some of the best art being created today is found in picture books. Picture books are a great resource for art education.
6. The picture book appeals to more learning styles than any other format. It is read out loud for audible learners. It is written and illustrated for visual learners. It often asks you to interact with it physically for kinesthetic learners.
7. In fact, the picture book, of all formats, is probably the best format for teaching an idea, getting across a point. Because picture books are short, all messages, knowledge, ideas expressed in a picture book must be boiled down to their essence. They must be presented in a way that is impossible to misunderstand. If you want to learn a difficult subject, start with a picture book. If you want to express a powerful message, a picture book is one of the most powerful media for doing so. Many middle, upper grade, and even college instructors have recognized the value of using picture books in their teaching.
8. The picture book does more than any other literary format for bonding people one with another. As a child sits on a lap and is read to, as a parent, a grand parent, a teacher, a librarian reads to a child, extremely important connections are made, bonds are formed, generations are brought together.
9. The picture book also has the broadest possible age range of audience. Few four-year-olds will appreciate a novel. But many grandparents enjoy a good picture book. I have read picture books for upwards of an hour to groups including toddlers, teens, parents and grandparents, where all were engaged.
10. The picture book is short, and can fit easily into the nooks and crannies of our lives. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there, plenty of time for a complete literary experience.
Picture books are poetry, adventure, imagination, language, interaction, precision, and so much more.
Picture books are not books that children should be encouraged to “graduate” from.
For picture books have something important to say, to give, to all ages, all generations.
Picture books are not just books for young children.
They are books for everybody.
I want to thank Rick for granting me permission to publish this wonderful and well-thought-out article on the importance of picture books. Please take time today to pull out your favorite picture book and revisit it and the memories.