Picture books

The power of picture books

How wonderful it is to enjoy children’s picture books and escape into their imaginative worlds reading them aloud with children. They open up such worlds of fascinations, awe, wonder, surprise and awakening. How much feeling and emotion can be portrayed through the characters and story. How much can the characters portray common situations for young children. In so many ways picture books hold the key to so much discovery and learning. 

When did you first feel yourself a writer?

Here is a charming video of Judith Kerr talking about her tiger who came to tea, she says she was 45 years old when she started writing picture books. If you, like me admire the work of Shirley Hughes and Judith Kerr here is a wonderful excerpt of an interview asking them both, “When did you first feel yourself a writer?“. What a great question! Watching this video has made me reflect wholeheartedly on this. I wonder how, when and if the children that we come into contact with feel a writer and how we create the conditions for this to happen?

Following authors and illustrators

I love to hear about famous authors, having read their books so often to children. Seeing Catherine Rayner’s Instagram page for example helps me to picture her drawing her characters which bring the books more alive to me. It heartens me to see her real life desk and “creative mess” as she calls it. This blog about where she illustrates tells us more about her workspace. In her photos she an amazing set of shelves and a beautiful pen and pencil holder on her table which I would love to commission for many settings. You can also read more about Catherine Rayner on the Booktrust website.

Why not follow other authors and illustrators on social media such as Michael Rosen, Oliver Jeffers, Julia Donaldson, Nick Sharratt and Alex T Smith.

Well known books with useful links

Oliver Jeffers

Going on a Bear Hunt (Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury)

  • I wonder what you throught about the We’re going on a bear hunt animation if you watched it? The sad ending with lots of empathy for the lonely bear gave it mixed reviews. 
  • Being fascinated (with a passion for picture books) I then read a Guardian review and interview with Michael Rosen. Rosen attributes some of the emotion to the illustrations by Helen Oxenbury through which she added meaning. He points out that on the inside back cover of the book the bear is walking hunched, head drooped, back along the beach to his cave and that is the magic I love about the picture book where a picture speaks thousands of words and carries so much meaning to the reader.
  • In another Guardian article, Helen Oxenbury says

It occurred to me three-quarters of the way through that the bear was all on his own in the cave, and might have wanted some company rather than to eat the children. I modelled his posture on the final page on a friend who had depression and whose shoulders dropped when he walked. He actually recognised himself and the original now hangs on his wall.

  • I wonder what interpretations we and our children will get when we next pick up the book? I wonder if we will look at the depth of meaning in the covers and illustrations as we share the books? What meanings can we draw out from the children when we engage in sustained shared thinking (SST) using the books as dialogue starters? (For any of you who wish to know more about this you can look up our sustained shared thinking page on the website, which we will continue to grow.)
  • Perhaps this presents an opportunity to talk about feelings of being scared, being frightened and demonstrating empathy. There is more on empathy (and trauma) on this page.

The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child (Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler) 

  • Out and about over Christmas I enjoyed exploring forests and woods in search of the Gruffalo. Forestry England lists the places where their Gruffalo sculptures live and I know they are in other places too. They also have downloadable resource packs.
  • During my research I found out about the Into Film Storymaker app for ipads that has an app you can use to make versions of the Gruffalo films with children aged 5 to 7.  

Stick Man (Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler)

  • Stick Man has his own official website
  • There were Stick Man trails with the Forestry Commission but most of these have closed so instead, why not go out to explore the woods and forests searching for the best Stick Man you can find. 

Room on the Broom (Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler)

The Snowman, The Snowman and the Snow Dog (Raymond Briggs)

  • The Snowman has an official website
  • The film introduction is by the late, great David Bowie which is also fabulous to watch

Suporting a love of reading – further resources and links

This page was updated by Cathy Gunning in Spring 2020

Further reading

Cursive writing

The three pages in this section help to present the evidence for NOT teaching cursive or joined up writing in the early years. The EYFS

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