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7 Reasons Why Picture Books are Important in the Classroom​

Picture books aren’t just stories but tools for growth and development. They combine visually stimulating illustrations with engaging narratives, making them accessible and appealing to readers. In this post, I’ll explore the essential benefits of picture books for children, discuss how they nurture creativity, literacy skills, and emotional intelligence and provide questions to foster meaningful discussions about them.

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Why Are Picture Books Important in Every Classroom?

1. How Do Picture Books Build Literacy Skills?

Picture books introduce children to foundational literacy skills by presenting text alongside supportive imagery. Combining words and illustrations helps readers understand new vocabulary, sentence structures, and storytelling conventions.

Example: Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson features rhyming patterns and repetitive text that aid language development for readers, while the story’s engaging narrative and colourful illustrations help reinforce vocabulary and storytelling conventions.

Illustration of a witch flying on a broom with a cat and an owl over a river landscape during a rainstorm.
Click on the image for Room on the Broom activity ideas and questions

2. How Do Picture Books Cultivate Imagination and Creativity?

Picture books with vivid illustrations and imaginative narratives encourage children to think creatively. They inspire readers to invent their own stories, expanding their imaginative capacities.

Example: Journey by Aaron Becker, a wordless picture book, invites children to create their own narratives, fostering imagination and storytelling skills.

A scene from "aladdin" featuring the character aladdin and his monkey abu flying on a magic carpet above the bustling streets of agrabah at sunset.

3. How Do Picture Books Introduce Complex Concepts?

Through carefully crafted stories and images, picture books simplify and make accessible complex ideas such as emotions, scientific phenomena, and social issues.

Example: A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon introduces themes like individuality and peer pressure in a child-friendly manner.

A painting depicting a surreal scene with a person riding a colorful, ornamented horse on the left and a woman's face expressing surprise on a tv screen on the right.
Click on the image for A Bad Case of Stripes activity ideas and questions

4. How Do Picture Books Foster a Love for Reading?

Engaging stories captivate children and create a positive association with books., encouraging an early love for reading and storytelling. Reading habits developed early can lead to lifelong literacy and learning enthusiasm.

Example: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats inspires a love of reading through its charming illustrations and relatable story, capturing the magic of a child’s adventure in freshly fallen snow.

A child in a patterned jacket looks out a window at a snowy scene, framed by dark ornate railings.
Click on the image for The Snowy Day activity ideas and questions

5. How Do Picture Books Promote Empathy and Understanding?

By featuring diverse characters and experiences, picture books help children develop empathy and understanding for others. They provide a window into different lives and experiences, helping readers understand and appreciate diversity.

Picture books often tackle complex emotions and social situations in a relatable way, supporting emotional intelligence and social understanding.

Example: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña explores economic diversity and community through the eyes of a child.

Illustration of diverse people sitting and standing in a bus, engaging in conversation, including a boy asking about a guide dog.
Click on the image for Last Stop on Market Street activity ideas and questions

6. How Do Picture Books Encourage Critical Thinking?

Picture books often present open-ended questions or unexpected plot twists that stimulate children’s critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Picture books require children to follow a story, improving comprehension, critical thinking and cognitive skills such as sequencing, memory, and attention span.

Example: The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka reimagines a familiar story from a different perspective, prompting readers to question established narratives.

Two-page book spread, left side shows a cartoon wolf with surprised expression, right side depicts a towering hamburger surrounded by small animal illustrations.

7. How Do Picture Books Enhance Cultural Awareness?

Stories set in various cultural contexts give readers a global perspective, encouraging them to appreciate different traditions and lifestyles.

Example: Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say illustrates the immigrant experience and the concept of belonging across cultures.

Two paintings: on the left, a man sits in a field of golden grass, looking away; on the right, a man in a red jacket looks out a window by a birdcage and clock.

Questions to Enhance Classroom Reading

  1. If you could be any character from the story, who would you choose and why?
  2. What message do you think the author wants to share with us?
  3. What do you notice about the illustrations on the cover of the book?
  4. How do the pictures help you understand the story better?
  5. What do you think happens after the story ends?
  6. Can you predict what might happen next?
  7. What would it be if you could change one thing about the story?
  8. If you could change the ending, what would happen instead?
  9. How does this story compare to other books we’ve read?
  10. If you could add a new character to the book, who or what would it be?
  11. How would the story change if it were set in a different place or time?
  12. If you could ask one of the characters a question, what would it be?
  13. Why do you think the author chose this particular ending?
  14. What are some of the similarities and differences between the characters?
  15. How does the book’s title connect to the story?
  16. What connections can you make between this story and your own life?
  17. How would the story change if the main character were of a different gender or ethnicity?
  18. What can we learn about different people or cultures from this book?
  19. How does the character solve the problem in the story? How would you have solved the problem differently?
  20. How does the setting contribute to the story?

In Summary

Picture books support children’s development by nurturing creativity, empathy, and critical thinking. They help your students understand literacy concepts and broaden their perspectives. Asking thoughtful questions can make reading even more meaningful. 

Share your favourite picture books and how they’ve impacted your students in the comments!

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