WHY Picture Books Matter


WHY Picture Books Matter

Storytelling was around before writing. People would pass along information, history, and myths through stories. A storyteller would use different movements, different voices, and different settings to help get their point across. People would gather around to listen, to learn, and to enjoy the company of others.

Picture books are this. You gather your child(ren) around, possibly gathered into your lap, and open the covers of a book. Here worlds are explored. Ideas are made. Compassion can be learned. People can heal. The world can become clearer. Feelings made to be understood. I could go on and on.

Picture books are our foundation. They are where we learn to read. Where we find comfort with being with someone else (remember the lap). Where we learn we can do things on our own.

Far too often in today’s society, I’m seeing adults pushing children away from picture books. Why? Don’t they grow up fast enough on their own??? I know mine have!

Some people think of picture books as being simple. *HA! <—I’m sorry. Was that out loud?* I beg to differ! A picture book is a layered thing. One to be explored again and again. To notice things you didn’t see before. To try and understand why the author worded a phrase a certain way. To figure out why the illustrator drew a character the way they did.

I like to think of a picture book as an onion. They are multi-layered. There is the basis of the story line, but so many have subplots. Is it a story about a historic event? Are there dual meanings? Does the different character act and react the way they should? Do you learn new vocabulary or a new language? Is an author’s note included or an account of the event? Are there other activities, things to look at, recipes to try included? So many layers!!!

Picture books are complex creatures. Writers spend months, if not years, perfecting the text. They work and work and work until those 750 words (OR LESS, USUALLY LESS!!!) roll off the page and seem effortlessly written for the reader to enjoy. Illustrators will spend months on each story. They add to the complexity of the words, filling in gaps. Maybe making an inside joke for the reader to enjoy while looking at the page. Only then do the two combine to make the complete story ready for the reader.

Picture Books…

Are a beginning, middle, and end in 10 minutes or less. Something you can digest easily and then comb over again and again.

Handle tough subjects… marriage, loss, moving, strangers, death, etc.

Handle light subjects… play time, funny, exploration, etc.

Can be read by anyone with a basic reading skill. This helps adults read better too!


So the next time you see a picture book, pick it up. Thumb through it. Read it slowly. Really look at the art work. Let the story fully pull you in. You’ll see you’ll fall in love with picture books as much as me.

Do you read picture books?
Who is your favorite picture book author and illustrator?
Do you write picture books?
What else would you say about picture books?

Until next time…

Happy Writing!

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11 thoughts on “WHY Picture Books Matter

  1. I’m a picture book junkie. I read, write, and love them! I agree they are the hardest book to write, but that makes them the most rewarding…to the writer and the audience. My favorite is still Dr. Seuss. More recently, I get a lift and laugh out of Doreen Cronin’s books.

  2. Dear Tracey,
    I love that you said, “People can heal.” That jumped out at me! I am a bereaved mom, a writer, and a teacher. I had the sweetest gift made for me out of two of my son’s Tshirts. I decided on one from when Sawyer was young and one from when he was a teenager. When handed my new bear, I immediately fell in love and named him Sawbear. I began taking him with me on trips and taking pictures of him. Our first trip was to Sawyer’s favorite vacation spot, Orange Beach. Instead of my focus being on what happened to my sweet nineteen year old boy, I was relying on precious memories to take pictures and then put them together to make a book. I have now created three rough drafts, and I take them to school. The kids are drawn to Sawbear. He us fun, loving, innocent, and misunderstands things sometimes as he is learning. They love him, write to him, ask for the rough drafts during reading, and continually share ideas with me about where Sawbear could go next or what he could do. Their excitement encourages writing and reading and healing for my heart! I have never shared with students what happened with Sawyer. They love Sawbear without knowing that Sawbear exhibits Sawyer’s personality and many of his past actions. There are little lessons throughout the books, and that just comes natural as a teacher and mommy. My dream is to see these books and Sawbears in the hands of children all over the world. Sawyer had so much love to share and this is my way of sharing it for him.
    Tracy Bradshaw

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