THE IMPORTANCE OF PICTURE BOOKS, NO MATTER YOUR AGE
by Janice Milusich
Like a magnifier you hold in your hand when you want to view something up close, picture books provide a focus onto a specific moment, a particular happening, or emotion, or imagining. In picture books, things that often go unnoticed are given their due. And together, the reader and the listener travel a path made of words and pictures. The words in picture books are chosen carefully and placed precisely so as to pull at heartstrings, make minds curious, create a sense of tension, or of triumph, let minds wonder or imaginations soar. The illustrations of picture books enrich the audience’s understanding and sensibility. Their poignant immediacy, lets the reader and audience fully appreciate the marvel of the world or worlds they will visit via the book they’ve chosen.
Why are picture books important for young readers/listeners?
Picture books are important for the young, for a myriad of reasons. As a child’s first guide into the worlds of art and literature they’re what encourages children to develop and grow. Picture books are an important first step in learning to read, and explore new ideas. They portray language, they evoke emotions, and the imagery found within them provides a conduit to the world of imagination.
Picture books frame childhood. They contain characters and situations that are recognizable to children. Through hearing or reading picture books, children can figure out a way to cope, to comprehend, to behave and to relate to the world around them.
Why are picture books important for older readers?
For siblings, parents and grandparents, picture books are moments of shared experience. The words and images within a picture book allow age boundaries to be crossed with comfortable ease. In the sharing of a picture book, the reader and the audience often take something different away from what would seem the same experience. But it is in the sharing, that both reader and audience have something in common.
Through picture books, older readers can discuss difficult concepts, topics, and emotions with their younger counterparts and, vice versa, younger readers/listeners can express their understanding of those concepts, topics or emotions. It’s the togetherness of the journey that matters and is most important.
No matter how many birthdays the reader or listener has had, picture books offer a window with shutters thrown open for us to view close up, and to share, the many wonders of our world.
Janice Milusich is the author of the early chapter book Cleo’s Big Ideas: One Thing Leads to Another and the picture book Off Go Their Engines, Off Go Their Lights. She’s presently enrolled in Stony Brook University’s Children’s Literature Fellowship, with a focus on writing picture books and early chapter books. She’s a member of SCBWI, Author’s Guild, and LICWI.
Author: Deborah Malcolm
Illustrator: Deborah Malcolm
Publisher/Year: ThunderStone Books/2015
Back Cover Blurb: Sadness is an emotion that everyone feels at some time or another. But sometimes you might feel a sadness so long and so deep and dark that it seems impossible to find happiness. That kind of sadness is called depression.
One day, an ordinary boy went outside to play. The boy loved to imagine, to draw, to run, and to read. But on this particular day, something crept slowly up behind him. It was gray and gloomy, and it grew bigger until it enveloped him. Then he fell down into a deep, dark hole, so deep and so dark that he couldn’t find his way out. He felt alone. He felt hopeless. But what’s that? Is it a glimmer of hope?
Most people think of depression as something that just affects adults. But kids can experience it to. They learn to hide it, just like adults do, not wanting anyone to know how they feel, not believing that anyone can help them. Just like the boy in the story, they feel alone and hopeless. Could it also be that kids don’t have the words to express how they’re feeling? Adults should pay special attention to kids who are having trouble concentrating, or are keeping to themselves, or are otherwise acting differently than they normally do. These kids may be experiencing depression.
Meh is completely wordless. The illustrations do a fantastic job taking us, the readers, along on the journey with the boy. When the “gloom” arrives, we can feel the mood change. We share the boy’s emotions as he moves through the black and gray pages of depression. We experience hope when we see a glowing light. We rejoice with the boy when we emerge from the hole into the sunrise of a brand new day.
I’m no expert on how to help kids who are suffering from depression, or how to help other kids to understand depression. But author/illustrator Deborah Malcolm’s book Meh is a good place to start.
Great post about “sound” words in picture books!
In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the sense of sound. It can be an onomatopoeia, a swearing session with sound alike substitutes, lyrical prose or a description of a sound. Go where you hear the prompt calling.
I thought it was quite timely for me as I had just written a piece about audiobooks. However, I have decided to keep that for posting another day and have instead decided to look at picture books. Regular readers may not be surprised.
Picture books are often a child’s first introduction to stories, poems, fantasy and other worlds. The language of picture books is immensely important and must captivate the ear as the illustrations engage the eye. Through picture books children are learning the sounds of the language:…
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Title: Sloth the Lazy Dragon
Author: Regan W.H. Macaulay
Illustrator: Alex Zgud
Publisher/Year: Guardian Angel Publishing/2016
Back Cover Blurb: Sloth is a lazy and overweight dragon taking up space atop a hoard of gold and jewels within a mountain inhabited by dwarves. One dwarf helps Sloth lose weight through diet and exercise. The grateful dragon, now able to fly, leaves the dwarf and his people a special gift.
Radish the dwarf bravely and cautiously enters the cave where Sloth the fire-breathing dragon resides, surrounded by mounds of gold and precious gems. Radish is hopeful that Sloth won’t eat him and offers to help the portly dragon lose weight. Sloth is skeptical at first, wondering why the little fellow, so small he’s “hardly a mouthful”, would want to help him. But he’s keen to get in shape, so he accepts Radish’s offer. After three years of exercising and eating healthy, Sloth is ready to fly again.
Being a dragon fan, I was immediately drawn to this book. When I was much younger, I collected dragon figurines, along with other mythical creatures, such as winged horses and unicorns. Lore that features these fantastical beings continues to fascinate me.
What I like most about Sloth the Lazy Dragon is that it’s not your typical “knight defeats evil dragon and rescues the princess and all the townsfolk” kind of story. Instead, we meet a chunky, overweight, can-barely-move dragon and a little dwarf who is willing to put his fear aside and help him. There’s no damsel in distress, but rather, a suffering dragon. There’s no weapon-wielding, white-horse-riding hero, but rather, a tiny man with a beard and a pointy cap…and oh yah, some free weights.
Through a clever story told with a captivating voice and filled with interesting words, like diminutive, atrophied, and dirigible, as well as enchanting and fun illustrations, this book, oh so subtly, relays the message that being active and eating nutritious foods is important for your health. Kids will eat this story up, no pun intended, because it will capture their imaginations.
“Why do you not fly outside the mountain?” the dwarf asked anxiously.
“Use your eyes, little man,” the dragon snorted. “Can you not see my girth?”
I’m happy to share a DCL Actor’s Table Reading of The Peddler’s Bed, which was organized, recorded, and edited by Mr. Scott Mosher, Paralibrarian at the DeWitt Community Library. Thank you, Scott and the talented script readers!
Have 5 minutes? Have a Listen!
Also check out the DeWitt Community Library’s SoundCloud page for more Actor’s Table Readings and Reader’s Theater recordings.