When words are not enough...
But if you thought that picture books are just for the pre-school and primary crowd, you'd be mistaken. So let's explore picture books for all ages...
"To stir up the attention..."
courtesy: Comenius Foundation
John Amos Comenius, a Moravian theologian and educational reformer, is thought to have created the first picture book for children in 1658. His book, Orbis Sensualium Pictus or Visible World, was intended to be an elementary encyclopedia, however it was revolutionary among textbooks because it was illustrated with pictures from woodcuts. He stated that his objective in adding pictures to his informational text was to "stir up the attention... by sport, and a merry pastime." I'm not sure how much time he spent around children, but he was absolutely right. Illustrations -- be they hand-drawn or photographed -- definitely capture the attention of the reader, young or old.
The Caldecott Medal
The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
The committee usually names several honor books as well as the medal winner.
How to find great picture books...
Here are some good resources for finding the best picture books, from classics to those just off the presses:
ALA's 2013 Notable Books for Children
ALA's Past Notable Book Lists
Best Read Alouds
Children's Book Guide
Des Plaines Library Booklists
Good Books for Kids
ISLMA Monarch Award Lists
Rod Library's Too Good to Miss
SLJ's Fuse #8 Top 100 Survey List
Teachers' Top 25 Picture Books
Types of picture books
Today, there are many different genres of picture books, which could be grouped into five broad categories:
The wordless book with no text
The Red Book by Barbara Lehman
These books tell a story or give information through a sequence of thoughtfully designed illustrations. They build such reading skills as comprehension, sequencing, inferring, predicting, and, surprisingly enough, vocabulary.
Wordless picture books invite discussion and storytelling among all ages. They can also be used as writing prompts with older students.
The picture book with minimal text
Many alphabet books, counting books and special concept books fit into this category. These can range from simple books which use familiar, concrete objects matched with text that pairs initial sounds with words: "A is for apple," to more sophisticated forms such as the subject-driven alphabet book, which focuses on a topic, such as Lois Ehlert's Eating the Alphabet, which highlights fruits and vegetables.
The picture storybook or informational text
In these types of picture books, the illustrations are as integral to the content as the text. Beginning readers interacting with texts are not reading in the traditional sense of relying solely on the printed word. They depend on illustrations to create meaning. These books provide that support while using pictures to expand the story as well.
The illustrated book
This category includes most books for beginning readers. These books may have more text than illustrations, but the pictures offer important interpretations of characters, settings and plot situations, or in the case of informational texts, extend or explain the factual material presented. Sometimes the pictures may be simply decorative.
Toy and movable books
These include pop-up, lift-the-flap, pull-tabs and other gadgetry. Although usually designed for the youngest reader sitting in a parent's lap, elements of these books may be used, particularly in informational texts, for older readers. Their effectiveness depends on the quality of the design workmanship, the materials used, and the relationship between content and form.
For the latest news from the glorious world of picture books, check out our Picture Book of the Week blog!