The Importance of Picture Books

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to go to an event at The Reader Org based in Calderstones Mansion, Liverpool http://www.thereader.org.uk/ The event was called Turning Pages Together and featured brilliant writer Frank Cottrell-Boyce and children’s editor Nicolette Jones as guests. 

I signed up to the event straight away. Picture books have always been incredibly important to me. Some of my own first memories are of looking at books and enjoying stories. I have some very battered but much loved books still just about clinging to life on my groaning bookcases. As I grew up, I had a teaching career spent in Early Years and Key Stage 1 which meant picture books were part of my every day life. I don’t know how many picture books I read to my various classes over the year but if you work it out as a rough guide of at least one story per day (and the reality is more like 2 or 3) the total is a staggering 3,420! Since leaving teaching the picture book has remained a constant. I refer to them when researching stories, use them in my voluntary group, share them at writing groups and creative writing courses. And of course, I use them as a reference for my own writing.

However, not everyone has the same view about the importance of picture books. Many people dismiss them as “books for babies”. I have often wondered why this is. Is it because people don’t realise the importance of introducing even very young babies to books? Is it because people just see it as part of the daily routine of bath, bottle, book, bed? Is it because people are so exhausted and tired they don’t have time to actually enjoy the books themselves? Either way, although the sales of children’s books (especially real books not kindle) are increasing, maybe the understanding of how important they are is not.

That’s why it was so lovely to hear Frank and Nicolette talk. Both of them stated my own belief that you are NEVER too old for a good picture book. A good story is a good story and good picture books are little gems of brilliance. They contain all the elements of a great book

  • interesting storylines
  • lovely characters
  • humour 
  • emotion
  • escapism
  • adventure
and all this with fabulous illustrations as well! 

Both Frank and Nicolette talked about the importance of picture books and how they offered fantastic opportunities for discussion and sharing times together. This is key! The discussion that goes on around picture books can be rich and varied. The illustrations often have a little sub-plot running through them that might not be discovered until the third or fourth read of the book. The text (especially if rhyming) becomes so familiar to the reader that the book is almost not needed anymore. The storylines may reflect events in your own family and offer moments to laugh at or remember together. Picture books are a joyful addition to any house and I still add to my collection now.

As a children’s editor Nicolette had the enviable job of compiling a short list 
for The Times 100 Best Picture Books list (taken from the last 10 years only) so I thought I’d share just ten of them with you now.

Orange Pear, Apple Bear by Emily Gravett
The Paperdolls by Julia Donaldson
The Great Granny Gang by Judith Kerr
There Are Cats in This Book by Viviane Schward
This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
Penguin by Polly Dunbar
The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle
Millie’s Marvellous Hat by Satoshi Kitamira
Croc and Bird by Alexis Deacon
Elmer and the Hippos by David McKee
So here’s my advice no matter how old you are, no matter how important and corporate your job is, no matter where you live, next time you pop into a library or book shop just let your feet take you to the children’s section. There is a whole world of scrumptious stories just waiting to be discovered…

Here are just two of my favourites!


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