Top 8 Reasons to Read Picture Books

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Picture books are legitimate works of art.

Aside from the obvious fact that picture books literally contain artwork that can range from the beautifully detailed to the more impressionistic or just plain strange, they also tell stories that have to conform to a limited word or page count.  It’s no mean feat to tell an emotionally powerful story so concisely, nor is it easy to marry the perfect illustration to the story.  Sometimes the illustrations themselves further the story or give an ironic twist to the words being read.  Reading a picture book requires legitimate analytical skills.

A good story transcends age.

The complexity of the sentence structure and the number of syllables in the words used in a story do not make a story less powerful or compelling.  Corduroy’s longing for a home, Harold’s creativity, and the Pigeon’s humorous insistence on driving the bus can resonate with readers of any age.

Not all picture books are written for preschoolers.

Many parents read picture books to their small children, but that does not mean all picture books exist solely to enhance the vocabulary and reading facility of these children.  Some picture books tackle complex or difficult issues, such as death, illness, mixed families, and more.  Some picture books are literally just pictures–they require readers to use their imaginations to make up their own stories (Aaron Becker’s Journey trilogy is one example).  Some are simply great stories that happen to come with pictures.

Picture books are creative and innovative.

Herve Tullet’s Press Here instructs readers to press the dot, shake the book, and more to interact with the story; Christie Matherson’s Tap the Magic Tree does much the same, while taking readers on a journey through the seasons.  Mo Willems breaks the fourth wall in his Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and We Are in a Book!  B. J. Novak turns the concept of a picture book upside down with The Book with No Pictures.  Adding pictures to a story opens up so many possibilities.

Picture books celebrate diversity.

If you walk around the YA section in a bookstore, you may notice that all the cover models seem to be white.  Books with diverse protagonists seem to have covers that feature symbols.  However, if you walk through the picture book section, the covers feature a greater number of non-white characters.  Introducing children to diversity is important and picture books seem to be taking on the challenge.

Picture books are uplifting and empowering.

Picture books are primarily marketed toward children and we generally want our children to feel powerful, confident, and hopeful.  So, unlike many works written for adults, picture books celebrate creativity, the uniqueness of individuals, the triumph of good over evil, and happy endings.  Some of my favorite uplifting books include Robert Munsch’s The Paper Bag Princess, Peter H. Reynold’s The Dot, and John Steptoe’s Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters.

Picture books are funny.

Some picture books really are just for laughs and that’s all right.  Reading solely for entertainment and not to “better” ourselves or improve vocabulary should not be a shameful thing!  Fortunately, many picture book writers and artists have a keen sense of humor.

The artwork.

I touched upon this under point number one, but it bears repeating.  The illustrations in picture books are real pieces of art that can be analyzed and appreciated just as you can analyze and appreciate the art you see in a gallery or a museum.  Sometimes the art can even make or break a picture book.  The fact that preschoolers also look at these illustrations does not diminish their value or make their creators somehow less worthy or talented than other artists.

Krysta 64


9 thoughts on “Top 8 Reasons to Read Picture Books

  1. Lisa says:

    You said it! I’m a big fan of picture books. Truly good ones can have such an impact, especially considering that favorites tend to get read over and over and over again.


    • Krysta says:

      Yes, and it’s easier to reread a picture book than it is to commit to reading something like Middlemarch, no matter how much you may love George Eliot!


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